Karakoy is situated along the shore of the Bosphorus across from Eminonu and the old city. It was once the financial center of the Ottoman Empire. The elegant facades of many of the buildings in the neighborhood have slipped into an unfortunate state of decay. This area of the city was overlooked for years. The city developed and changed around it. The financial center of Modern Turkey moved to Levent and Maslak. Hardware shops dominate many streets.
Ten years ago nobody would have ventured to Karakoy by day or night. Now, it is becoming a destination. New galleries, cafes and restaurants are popping up left and right. Many say the crowd that once reinvented Nevizade, Tunel, Galata and Asmalimescit will make Karakoy the next hip neighborhood of Istanbul. The neighborhood’s slow transformation is impossible to ignore. Empty warehouses sit next to bustling new restaurants and bistros. This is the magic of Karakoy, the most recent discovery and destination for Istanbul’s hipsters, trendsetters and yuppies.
We went on Saturday night to see for ourselves. Our destination? Bej, a bistro could easily be located in the heart of New York City or London. With small appetizer plates and a comprehensive wine list, this restaurant attracts the glamorous and hip 30-something crowd. Shiny BMWs surround the restaurant. A DJ sat inside spinning an eclectic mix of club music. The menu touted an interesting array of fusion cuisine. We sipped wine and nibbled on the Caprese salad, sesame chicken and kebab on a bed of humus. In three plates, we tasted authentic Italian, Chinese and Mediterranean flavors in one sitting. We watched as an accordion player passed through the crowd, TV personalities walked by and this forgotten neighborhood proved it was full of life, charm and promise.