I've seen some very negative reviews of this place online but, truly, I cannot understand why. We not only had a wonderful meal, we were treated very well by several lovely gentlemen.
Akbiyik Fish Restaurant is located on the corner of a main street in Sultanahmet but in a less trafficked area so it was less touristy. Along the outside wall of the restaurant on its side street sat three men providing some traditional Turkish music. Because it was outside, we could enjoy it without feeling overwhelmed by it. At the entrance, there are a couple of steps that bring you in slightly below street level. It's interesting to people watch from this vantage point. The interior isn't much to look at, very simple, but it's the food...!
The first course was a tray of mezes (or small plates) from which we could choose as many as we wished. The three we ate were terrific - a roasted aubergine (eggplant), a potato and caper salad and a marinated octopus. We ordered a local Turkish wine with this - something similar to a sauvignon blanc and very nice. As we sipped, a fresh platter of fish was brought out for us to choose. We picked a glistening white grouper that was baked in a salt dome.
This is a bit of a lengthy process, so while we waited, we were brought a plate of THE MOST TENDER calamari rings - exquisite. When the fish came out, two men set it on fire and then proceeded to chisel the dome open. Once the largest chunks were removed, another man removed the fish and filleted it. Along with the fillets, we were served the cheeks of the grouper and the shrimp and mushroom stuffing that had steamed inside. Mr. Grouper was so large that we had to forgo dessert. But what a great meal! This was a lovely change from the more touristed places in Istanbul.