Forty-five minutes south of Çanakkale, a small but flourishing ferry port sits outside of the town of Geyikli. Nestled between olive groves and farms lies the main access point to the small island of Bozcaada. Until the late 1990s, Bozcaada was disputed territory between Turkey and Greece, isolating the island from foreign vacationers. As a result, the vine-covered passageways of the traditional seaside village have been preserved. Active resistance from island residents prevents large developments from being established and restricts the use of cars within the island’s main town. Consequently, Bozcaada is a haven for those seeking delicious food away from sprawling resorts and crowded beaches.
As the ferry lumbered closer to the island, we saw the outlines of hulking castle walls shadowing a harbor. Brightly colored wooden fishing boats rocked in their moorings in front of whitewashed seafood restaurants. At the southwestern corner of the port, backed by the grassy hill outlining the edge of town, sat Tenedos. The blue chairs were the color of the late morning sky. The simple sandwich board perched at the top of a garden path guided us to the waterfront with promises of the daily mezes.
Turgay greeted us immediately after we headed down the garden path. He was energetic in his introductions, yet avoided the coercive tactics often plied upon those casually passing similar restaurants. He seemed merely excited to share what he felt was good food. He started by recommending the cevizli kabak. The blend of walnuts, squash and yogurt is full of vibrant buttery and sour flavors, but initially we passed it over. Upon noticing this, Turgay brought a plate to our table on him, purely because he felt we needed to try it. “Sometimes I eat this for lunch,” he said. “It’s my favorite!”
The mezes at Tenedos constantly change with what’s available and reflect the diverse culinary traditions of the Aegean. Deniz börülcesi grows on rocky seaside cliffs and on the ramparts of the castle, but also makes a delicious salad. Simply tossed with olive oil and vinegar after being boiled, the soft stocks of the plant absorbed the dressing and imparted a pleasantly pickle-like flavor and texture. Another local favorite are kabak çiceği dolmaları, or stuffed squash flowers. Instead of grape leaves, the golden-yellow flowers served as a vehicle for delicious currant-flecked rice. While copious choices abound, for our fish mezes we chose smoked mackerel and a delicate salted white fish with dill. Each played as a counterpoint for the other. The mackerel could have been mistaken for a smoked succulent red meat, firm while at the same time juicy and exploding with flavor. The white fish, on the other hand, dissolved in our mouths, sliding over our tongues into salty encapsulations of the sea.
Turgay and his wife, Çağla, are the new owners of Tenedos, only having operated it for several months. They met while working at a hotel in Çannakkale and decided they wanted to run their own place. Turgay manages the restaurant while his wife heads the hotel that sits on top. The passion and energy necessary to run a restaurant is there. Turgay bustles incessantly around the restaurant and town, zipping to the local market on his bike to retrieve produce for the day’s fare. What makes Tenedos so good is its simplicity and care for quality. Only what is fresh and delicious appears on your plate, and each time it does, you can expect to be pleasantly satisfied.