Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Sultan of the Sidewalk

Fikri has a tough job. He stands outside the Antique Turquoise restaurant on Akbiyik Caddesi in the Sultanahmet neighborhood of Istanbul, trying to persuade passers-by to stop for a meal or a drink or at least a cup of Turkish tea.

It gets chilly out there, especially in the evening, but he's friendly and charming, and more successful than I would have imagined.

My first afternoon in town, I sat enjoying the sunshine at one of the sidewalk tables at the Turquoise and watched him work. It's an art, and he's a master. He seemed to sense when to give up after the first rejection, and when to keep trying. Many people would get several strides past the restaurant before one last comment got them to turn around and at least take a look at the menu.

The restaurant was just around the corner from my hotel, and we talked every day I was there. He was curious about America, and Abu Dhabi, too. The entire staff was friendly, and they serve a great hummus. I didn't get to try the "salt meat" -- a huge serving of beef wrapped in leaves and coated in a hard layer of salt, which is then set on fire, tableside – but I did treat myself to a great steak on my last night in town, served sizzling on a marble platter.

Fikri joined me for a cup of tea after I finished dinner, and I asked him if he was the best "greeter" on the street. He dipped his head modestly, and said it would embarrass him to say so. But it was obvious that he was pleased, and that he took pride in his work. He's a chef by trade, he said, but he has been at the Turquoise for seven months, blowing on his hands and sipping tea to stay warm as he works his sidewalk magic.

1 comment:

  1. I'd be over for dinner if it didn't take two days to get there. A buddy who has a Vietnamese wife from the war days says hit the pork with a bit of garlic and pepper, and make sure the cukes are ultra thin...