Cuisine and culture go hand in hand,
And if you love the food you will love the land!
This restaurant is located on the terrace of Beyoğlu’s Tomtom Suites hotel. It has a superb view of the old city, but, more importantly, it has the talents of two young chefs who are doing stellar work using locally-sourced ingredients. Their imaginative take on the Turkish stapleArnavut ciğeric (Albanian-style liver) is reminiscent of foie gras and is among the more sublime dishes found in town. One of their desserts, a panna cotta made with yoghurt, pulls off the nifty trick of not only cleverly imitating its original inspiration but actually bettering it.
It seems chef Didem Şenol knew exactly what Istanbul was missing when, last year, she opened Lokanta Maya – a casual neighbourhood bistro with a brief menu of contemporary Turkish cooking and seasonal specials. Since opening, Maya has been showered with well-deserved praise, locally and internationally, quickly earning the place an enthusiastic following. The mucver, zucchini fritters, are so popular that Şenol wrote the recipe on a mirror in the dining room so customers would stop asking for it. The caramelised sea bass with orange is irresistible, too.
Located right on the Bosphorus in an Ottoman-era boat dock in the shadows of a medieval fortress, Iskele’s atmosphere is as inspiring as the food is reliably delicious. This is a timeless fish house frequented by Istanbul traditionalists because they know the city’s culinary traditions are safe within these walls. Waiters know many of their customers by name, as well as whether they take their raki with or without ice. A meal is spread out over several courses, starting with cold meze, followed by hot starters and working up to a seafood crescendo. This is a very pleasurable Istanbul ritual.
Commanding a fine view of the Golden Horn, the stylish X sits atop the 90-year-old Deniz Palas (or Sea Palace) building, which is also home to the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), a non-profit group that organises some of the city’s best-known cultural events. The grand building was renovated in 2009 after decades of neglect, and both it and X are perfect examples of Istanbul’s resurgence and its ability to mix the old with the new, and east with west. The Mediterranean-influenced menu includes expertly made takes on dishes that range from a traditional Anatolian “wedding soup” to pizzas baked in the brick oven.
Turkish-Swedish chef Mehmet Gürs sets the Istanbul culinary bar high – 20 storeys high, to be exact. Located on the rooftop of the chic Marmara Pera hotel, Mikla, which opened in 2005, has a dazzling view of the city below. But the stylish restaurant’s menu, which reflects both Turkish and Scandinavian influences, more than holds its own. Try the cherrywood-smoked loin of lamb or the pistachio-crusted lamb chops and finish up with a plate of artisanal cheeses from the east. The restaurant’s extensive wine list is a good introduction to the exciting developments in Turkish wine making.