Hidden at the mouth of the Beyoğlu’s labyrinthine backstreets, the restaurant stretches over three stories. The term ocakbaşı refers to a grill master – whether this is the man sitting behind the copper-hooded grill, paying attention to every skewer sizzling on the coals, or whether it refers to the copper-hooded grill itself. Its ambiguous, and hardly important when anyone walks into these grill-houses and is hit with the mouth-watering smell of charcoal. Indeed, the ocakbaşı is a favourite among Istanbulites – no matter how touristic it looks.
Zübeyir is the name of one of two brothers who opened the joint in 2006. Although they’d both been in the industry much longer, neither expected it to be received so well. Today, the brothers have opened another (slightly more ostentatious) location Istanbul’s Asian neighborhood of Ataşehir.
Most who eat at Zübeyir barely do any ordering. Show up, and trust your waiter. He’ll take good care of you. For those who prefer knowing what they will be eating, the menu offers a nice range of familiar favourites from eggplant or purslane salads to pilaki (white bean salad) to cacık (chilled yogurt soup with cucumbers and an herb party). As well, you’ll be able to choose some regional delicacies such as Van cacığı (similar to the chilled soup with a bit more of a crunch) or köz soğan ve sarımsak (grilled onions and garlic, never a bad idea). And these are only the starters. Admittedly, when it comes to the grilled options, these masters are not looking to create anything new under the sun. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. After years of working on their craft (it is), honing their skills (there are), they have perfected the spice mixes, the grilling times, and the heat of the charcoal ambers. Masters of their trade, the menu offers standard options like çöpşiş kebap and spicy Adana kebap. But when asked, regulars return for the kaburga (ribs) and the beyti kebap (a lamb and beef kebab mix, grilled, and individually wrapped in a layer of lavash topped with yogurt and a hint of tomato sauce).
However, it’s easy to fill up before the main act arrives – as we have done so many times before. But. Details. We regret nothing.
Note: Zübeyir Ocakbaşı is a popular place. Reservations are highly recommended.