#AFCOTRAVELS – Brooke’s Delightful Trip to Turkey
It has been nearly 12 years since I had last been to Istanbul. My recent visit this July was vastly different and I have to credit the great experiences I had to the extensive use of social media to help identify new points of interest and plan accordingly. In 2006 there was no Airbnb or Instagram which were both heavily utilized this time around as resources to find myself in an Istanbul that had me feeling like this might be my favorite city in the world. The juxtaposition of east and west, modern and historic, Islamic and capitalist creates a city full of surprise, delight and comfort – all with an incredible sense of hospitality in the relaxed, laid-back culture.
I had many opportunities to visit hip coffee shops that could have been just as home in California replete with macrame hanging plants and art galleries similar to the ones I lived amongst in Greenpoint Brooklyn. The design and cuisine of the city have evolved along with the proliferation of social media to offer modern dishes like avocado toast and matcha lattes served inside 500 year old buildings in the Beyoğlu (Pera) district. I enjoyed finding balance between the old and the gentrified and decided that instead of trying one of the newest restaurants or one with Michelin stars, I’d go for the stand out that aims to blend ancient techniques with today’s talent and ingredients, Mikla.
Located on the top floor of the The Marmara Pera hotel, Mikla is urban, sleek and stylish. The dining room features glass walls for magical nearly 360 degree views over the city to Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace in Old Istanbul. On one side of the dining room the glass walls give way to an expansive outdoor dining area and bar. Up one set of stairs, visitors are greeted with a roof top offering another nearly 360 degree view lounge seating, bar and pool positioned at one corner with glass walls overlooking city.
Opened in 2005, Mikla is one of the World’s Best 50 Restaurants. Mikla employs full-time anthropologist, Tangör Tan, to work alongside chef and restaurateur Mehmet Gürs to rediscover a culinary heritage that’s in danger of disappearing, and revive it in a 21st century context. They founded the New Anatolian Kitchen project which works to discover traditional habits of people cooking, identifies cultural relevance of ingredients, regions, foods, producers and embraces cultural differences that characterize the cooking from specific regions.
The restaurant offers a three course prix fixe a la carte menu or a seven course tasting menu and naturally, we choose the latter. The experience from start to finish was quite flawless in terms of timing, service, ambiance and each dish was equally as impeccable. All dishes were incredible but I’ll share my top three and you’ll have to visit yourself to experience the rest! The braised artichoke was compressed and was one of my favorite dishes due to the nature of this technique to concentrate the mild vegetable flavor. The Balık Ekmek sardine chip was another standout and similar variations can be experienced at a number of other restaurants including San Francisco’s Rich Table. The manti, or dumpling, was not something incredibly unique but the satisfaction this delicious comfort staple offers can not be understated. I found myself devouring other versions of this dish a couple times!
There is undoubtedly a high concentration of restaurants to visit in this incredibly diverse city and Mikla is one that is likely to remain. I highly recommend you add Istanbul to the top of your bucket list with a few days on the Turquoise Coast to be sure to soak up some of the country’s best natural scenery as well. I did find a number of places in my pre-trip research that I wanted to try but found had closed so definitely be sure to verify places are open if you are going out of your way to visit. Luckily in this highly walkable city there is a rotating choice of offerings with some of the greatest concentrations in my favorite areas to explore like Galata, Karakoy, Cihangir and Cukurcuma.
Olive Oil Braised Artichoke
Sardines, Bread, Lemon
Turkish Dumpling with garlicky yoghurt sauce and paprika sauce
Morel Mushroom, Cress, Pomegranate Vinegar, Sumac, Burned Butter, Malkara Green Len
Broad Bean, Fresh Almond, Halhali Olives, Capers, Apple Vinegar
Wild Cabbage, Giresun Walnut, Salted Yoghurt, Potato, Bergama Tulum Cheese, Cumin, Plum Pestil
Grape Molasses, Basil, Walnut Crumbs, Strawberry Sorbet
Cheese & Honey
Anatolian Raw Milk Cheeses, Flower Honey, Walnut, Hardaliye & Prune, Multi Seed Crisp