Cuma opened in the Çukurcuma neighborhood four months ago and is already a firm local favorite. Located just a hundred meters from author Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence and behind a line of antique shops, its breezy terrace is transporting, creating an almost tropical vibe. Up the narrow stairs in the century-old building, visitors will find a small house-restaurant, complete with entrance area, kitchen, living room, dining hall with antique decor, even toys on the shelves – all adding up to a very homey, vintage feel.
Owner Banu Tiryakioğulları graduated from the Culinary Arts Academy in Maslak and previously worked as a chef at the much-acclaimed restaurant Changa. She says that once she saw the space that is now Cuma, she knew it had to be a restaurant. (The name comes from old French maps of Çukurcuma, on which the area was called Djouma.) Tiryakioğulları gets her ingredients as locally as possible – most come from the Feriköy organic market and the Kastamonu market in Kasımpaşa, while dairy and olive products make their way across the Marmara sea from Bandırma.
As soon as we sit down, we are greeted with toasted bread and a mouthwatering pepper paste. Cuma’s menu is heavily focused on Turkish cuisine – the egg-tomato-and-pepper dish menemen, eggs with sucuk (spicy beef sausage), a cheese-and-fresh-herb omelet, and a variety of toasted sandwiches – but also offers other selections such as gazpacho and eggplant-tomato linguini.
A lunch menu that changes daily features dishes such as eggs with minced meat; grilled sea bass salad; lemon potato salad; grilled chicken skewers; firik (roasted green wheat) salad, a southeast Turkish specialty; and a salad with apricots, walnuts and wheat grain, which is light but filling. The zucchini-and-cheese patties we order come with a cucumber-yogurt sauce; the combination simply melts in your mouth. The köfte we choose to follow the dish up with comes atop a bed of eggplant; we couldn’t get enough of it.