Don’t be misled by the name on the sign that hangs over the Pilavcı (pilaf-seller) restaurant. This is not, contrary to its name, a spot that specializes only in pilaf dishes.
We actually made that assumption, but when we stepped inside and saw the delicious homemade food releasing their aromatic scent, we realized we were encountering an entirely different sort of eatery. There is a selection of 14 different specialties of rice dishes that change every day alongside eight popular non-rice dishes that have found a permanent home on the Pilavcı menu.
In fact, the menu is constantly changing and shifting here, right through into the evening. The tables are small, white and rectangular in shape, and can seat up to 100 people on the stools that surround them. There is the very same sense of warmth you might find in a home here. Perhaps this is because the kitchen is run by eight women who spend their days turning out dish after dish of wonderful food. The women are led by the mother of the two owners of the restaurant, Serkan and Hakan Sağdıç. And so what you wind up with is dishes made from the very best ingredients, in an atmosphere of warmth and attention to detail. Who could ask for more?
So, since this place is called “Pilavcı,” let’s at least start off with the pilaf you can find here. The fact that you can get a single portion of maklube here is in itself significant. Maklube is the name of a rice pilaf dish from Hatay, notable for the chicken, meat and eggplant that accompany the rice. It is usually made for very large groups of people, and rarely will you taste maklube as delicious as the one found at Pilavcı. After ordering your maklube -- which you can also get with sautéed meat and different kinds of chicken -- it will arrive at your table in just three minutes. Another dish you might want to try at Pilavcı is kuru fasulye, which are Turkish-style white beans. While the beans themselves were a bit dry, the taste was really spot-on, and the meat broth used to cook it definitely enhanced the flavor. We also loved the Konya-style okra dish, made with the freshest of okra that almost melted in your mouth.
Pilavcı opens up at 7 a.m., serving traditional lentil soup as well as vegetable or chicken soup on a rotational basis. By 11:30 a.m., the various hot dishes on the menu are ready for serving, right through until 9 p.m., with the hot food section being replenished every hour to ensure the most flavorful of dishes are made available to diners.
Pilavcı also features regional dishes on the menu on certain days. For example, you might encounter lor dolması or ziron -- both dishes from Bayburt -- any particular day of the week. We were not at Pilavcı on such a day, but some of the tastes we did encounter -- such as maklube, meat-filled chard dolma, farm kebab, forest kebab and elbasan (an oven-baked yogurt kebab) with mushrooms -- were all tastes we just loved. We ate a lot, but I did forgot to try the meat pepper dolmas, the various olive oil dishes and the homemade mantı as well. I plan to make it a point to get back there and try these!
Pilavcı opened in 2008, and owner Serkan Bey notes he constantly researches new dishes, and adds at least two to the general menu every month. Serkan Bey also says soon the first floor of the restaurant will be devoted solely to the service of the special rice maklube dish, and a special magazine called “Pilavcı” is also in the works. One other thing about Pilavcı is that it is like chef school: Someone that starts out washing dishes could end up cooking, if he or she shows enough skill for the latter. The hard work and unique dishes that come out of Pilavcı makes it destined to become a favorite boutique eatery in İstanbul in the coming years.
So don’t forget, maklube, while delicious and special, is not the only thing to eat at Pilavcı. You can get 14 different and special tastes here throughout the day and the menu is constantly shifting. There are 12 people who work at Pilavcı so the service is fast, and the food is hot. There is a parking lot available for customers, but there is also a lot of parking available on the surrounding side streets. The restaurant is closed on Sundays. Don’t forget to try the desserts here either, especially the roasted kadayıf or the pudding sprinkled with hazelnuts.
Tastes are incredible, and so are the prices
Buttery lentil soup: TL 2.50
Salads: TL 2-2.50
Yogurt in pot: TL 3
Bean dish in stew pot: TL 4
Meat and vegetables in stew,
meat kebab: TL 4.50
İzmir köfte in stew pot/okra
with meat: TL 6
Oven-baked köfte in stew/
pot/chard and cabbage dolma: TL 5
Farm and forest kebab in stew pot: TL 5
Olive oil dishes: TL 2-5
Maklube with meat: TL 8
Maklube with chicken: TL 7
Chicken and bean pilaf: TL 3
Bulgur pilaf with eggplant: TL 3
Pilaf with salad: TL 2.50
Pilaf with liver: TL 4
Desserts: TL 3
Ayran/soda: TL 1
Soft drinks: TL 2
Water: TL 0.50
Mimar Sinan Mah. Uncular Cad.
No. 22 /1 Üsküdar, İstanbul
Tel.: 0 (216) 334 66 73