I have been looking forward to dining at Istanblue Mediterranean Cuisine ever since I heard about its planned opening. I like Lebanese and Greek food, and understand that Turkish food, which Istanblue specializes in, is similar.
Margarita and I dined at the relatively new restaurant, located in the former Friendly's location at Congress Plaza, Wednesday night. Our experience was disappointing, and I don't know if the place will last until January.
There's a certain cluelessness about the operation there. We were in our seats for several minutes and given water and bread without a word from the young staff members working in what are apparently support roles, but no one came back to take a drink order. That became somewhat understandable when our waiter, who eventually arrived on the scene, informed us that they didn't have a liquor license yet. That's not so unique to new restaurants, but Istanblue initially opened without even a web site, so I'm not sure if the lack of liquor (during track season!) was the owner's inexcusable lack of planning or the New York State Alcohol Control Board not being efficient. In any event I don't know when the liquor license will arrive but the lack of one seems to be affecting business; there were only five tables occupied when we arrived at 7:20PM on the Wednesday before the Travers. I should acknowledge the server was friendly and relatively knowledgeable about the menu.
It started off all right, and Margarita's lentil soup was good and a the smoothness of the pureed beans created a different taste and texture. She also ordered the chicken kabobs $16), and I ordered the Iskender ($18), which the menu described as Lamb and beef gyro, zesty red sauce, yogurt and hot butter sauce over seasoned seared pita.
Our waiter said there was a mistake in the kitchen with my entree, which caused Margarita's meal to be served minutes before mine. OK, stuff happens. And the kabobs were moist and very good, but the Iskender had a pungency and flavor that didn't agree with me. That may be understandable - after all I was trying a new cuisine - but I didn't enjoy the meat or the red sauce. In all fairness, I nearly got sick the first time I tried Indian food, and I eventually acquired a taste for it. Nonetheless, the iksender was supposed to come with pita, but instead it was served over the exact same type of bread that was served before the dinner. That made me wonder. I didn't realize this bread was a diversion off the menu until I got home and reviewed the menu and started writing this mini-review. I get annoyed when the menu says one thing and you end up getting something different.
So maybe Istanblue will get a clue (that rhyme was unintended) and hit their stride and perhaps find a niche this fall amongst returning Skidmore students, who tend to be more open-minded about trying new cuisines, pungency and poor service or not. The uniqueness and potential of the food, especially in Saratoga Springs which has a limited variety of ethnic restaurants (lots of Asian, Italian, and Mexican but little else), gives me some hope. Otherwise, Istanblue has a long long way to go if it is to survive the challenging and competitive Saratoga restaurant scene