You know how sometimes your iPhone camera doesn’t do a subject justice? In the right light it does a pretty good job. But other times, it just doesn’t come close to capturing the true nature of what you’ve witnessed. That happened to me on Saturday at Datlı Maya, a well liked and inexplicably popular cafe in Istanbul’s Cihangir. My good ol’ iPhone failed to accurately capture how absolutely filthy this place is. The dirt was so completely ubiquitous, from the crumb filled, grease stained storefront, to the dirty open kitchen, to the sticky dining room and its grime-caked floors, that I thought for a minute I had been teleported to a Denny’s on the New Jersey Turnpike.
I remarked to my incredulous dining companion that I hadn’t eaten in a place so dirty since college. She took pity on me as she smacked my hand away from the parsley I was about to put on my too-thick lahmacun. “You don’t want to eat that.” Microbes and all. The same could be said of the rest of the meal, which was a tremendous disappointment. Dishes were over or undercooked, or irregularly reheated. Hot kid on cold rice? Offensive under normal circumstances, but overshadowed by food stains on the walls. After a few stomach-churning bites, we split. And Datlı Maya will never tempt us again.
Datlı Maya does offer a bit of value, though. With each meal, you get caked-on dried food from the previous diners, which is firmly attached to the self-service silverware, absolutely free! Bonus!