Istanbul- Michelin Guide’s New Star of the Day

michelin star-reveal-party-istanbul
Michelin Star Revelation Istanbul. Paul Shoul photos
galata-istanbul
Galata Simitçi They bake beautiful Simits. Somewhere between a bagel and a pretzel, these sesame seed-covered delights are lovely plain or as a sandwich.

The Great Chefs of Istanbul Are Rewarded with Michelin Stars

By Paul Shoul
GoNOMAD Staff

Let’s start with the ingredients. In 1970 Istanbul had approximately 2.5 million inhabitants. Today in 2022, it has surged to over 15 million. If this city was a country, It would be the 9th largest in Europe.

Straddling Asia and Europe, divided by the Bosphorus strait, has been a center of shipping and trade for millennia. A mixing pot of culture and cuisines.

Istanbul smells like spice, grilled fish, and meat. The street food scene is sublime: glorious donna kebab stalls, fish sandwiches. Simits (Somewhere between a bagel and pretzel) covered in sesame seeds. Buttery baklava, stuffed mussels. kokoreç (grilled lamb intestines). Lahmacun ( Turkish pizza). Baklava to die for.

Bosphorus Istanbul
Bosphorus Istanbul

The traffic is notorious. The sidewalks are packed, humming with a dozen different languages. I heard the Muslim call to prayer, the hawker’s call to eat, and the Rolling Stone’s ” Satisfaction” drifting out of a club.

Sometimes it is faster to grab a ferry to bypass the gridlock during rush hour. The history  along the banks of the Bosphorus is mind-boggling. Ferries, fishing boats, huge mega tankers filled with grain and oil all pass by the grand and spice bazaar, mosques, and ancient cisterns.

The Michelin Guide Arrives

Michelin Star Revelation Istanbul
Michelin Star Revelation Istanbul

In an appropriately swanky award ceremony held at the Zorlu Performing Arts Center on Oct 11th Michelin welcomed 53 new restaurants in Istanbul into their esteemed guide. What a great night with a DJ, opera singers, and a who’s who of the culinary scene.

Incredible appetizers, endless wine, and a crowd of super ecstatic, hard-working chefs finally getting the recognition they deserve. It was a life-changing event for them and the city.

I was lucky enough to dine at some of the newly-ordained star restaurants in Istanbul. Here is what I found.

Araka Restaurant

On the next day, after Chef Pınar Taşdemirul of Araka received one Michelin star, this delightful, unassuming young chef was hard at work in her tiny kitchen preparing lunch for an unruly crowd of 40 journalists and influencers. Araka Restaurant

A challenging task at any time for any chef, she steadily put out inspired food. It was apparent from the first bite why she was selected. 

The restaurant has a cozy/rural/whimsical feeling. As do her dishes.

The menu:

Confit celeriac and green tomatoes with citrus. Green apple smoked bonito and almond tarator. Miso roasted cauliflower, broccoli, fava with marjoram. sea bream, eggplant, fresh herb sauce. Slow-cooked lamb and chilav. Fig & halloumi baklava, geranium ice cream.

 Alaf Restaurant

Alaf Istanbul
Alaf Istanbul

Alaf Restaurant was awarded the Bib Gourmand, Michelin Guide “Best value for money restaurants – offering a three-course meal at a reasonable price.” Chef/owner Murat Deniz Temel served up a Turkish gastronomic map of dishes from regions around Türkiye. One of my favorite meals in Istanbul.

The menu:

Cured fish / Aegean fish egg salad.

“Konya” moldy cheese. Pork kebap. Lamb kebab.

1924 Istanbul
1924 Istanbul

1924 Istanbul Restaurant

My first dinner in Istanbul was a step back into history at the 98-year-old 1924 Istanbul restaurant. A great atmosphere that was somewhat of a gastronomic museum; there was an accordion player and a violin player serenading diners.

Opened by Russian refugees in 1924, they feature a modern take on traditional Russian cuisine. Note to self, 4 shots of Horseradish infused vodka mixed with 3 glasses of wine is not a great idea:).

 The menu:

Zucchini Flower dolma with quince, chickpea topik with fig, house-cured pastima beignet, salmon blini with keta caviar, wild mushroom piroshki, beef cheek cherry jubilee aubergine, and pomme anna, and samantha helva “baklava” with blackberry puree.

Sans Restaurant

Sans Istanbul
Sans Istanbul

Chef Rudolf GPM Van Nynen is larger than life. In the kitchen of Sans Restaurant, he is all business. He did not relax until all the plates were prepared, served, and then met with a silence that sometimes descends on a dining room when the food is so good that there is no room for conversation until you are done tasting.

The menu:

Amuse bouche, Swiss chard with beef and yogurt, “Urla” artichoke braised in red beetroot puree, spinach roots, fava bean carrot puree

Wine- Kavaklidere Emir 2021, Cappadocia.

Aegean line caught wild sea bass roulade with saffron-tarragon sauce

Wine- Chamlija Narince 2020, Kirkareli

Thrace lamb in a pistachio jacket, siyez wheat shallot, dolma. Celery root, demi-glace of grapes.

Wine- Doluca Sarafin, Meritage 2019, Saroz
Yali 77 Restaurant

Yali 77 Istanbul
Yali 77 Istanbul

Breakfast is a big deal in Türkiye. For many, it is the most important meal of the day. On the weekends, it is a tradition that families and friends gather. They talk for hours, eat from numerous small plates and drink gallons of tea or the muddy caffeine jolt that is Turkish coffee.

Yali 77 is located in a unique oasis of open green space overlooking the only beach on the Bosphorus.

Long tables in the garden were adorned with an impressive spread of Turkish breakfast fare. Shared plates of tomatoes, cucumbers, Asuka with walnuts, pastry with cheeses, and pepper boran fried gör egg, menemen, cirrilmis with milk and fried potatoes and sausage Bodrum mandarin Jam, fresh curd cheeses, honey, cream, and simit.

Mandatory things to see in Istanbul

Sofia Mosque
Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque

Visit Sultanahmet Square

Located on the site of what was the Byzantine Hippodrome of Constantinople. It was the social center of ancient times where chariot races were once held. It is the historic heart of Istanbul that attracts thousands of people every day. A beautiful open square with gardens, sitting areas, and a smattering of carts selling treats like grilled corn, simit, ice cream, and roasted chestnuts.

Basilica-cistern
The subterranean Basilica Cistern

All within walking distance are the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace Museum, and the Basilica Cistern, an underground chamber supported by over 336 marble columns that could hold over 2,0945,454 gallons of fresh water.

Ataturk Cultural Center

I was privileged to see Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio Opera by Istanbul State Opera and Ballet at the Ataturk Cultural Center. This concert hall, theater, and cultural center offers a wide range of dance, opera, theater, and music performances and is home to art and history galleries.

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazara.
Grand Bazaar. The mother of all shopping malls

Built in the second half of the 15th century, the Grand Bazaar has 61 stone-arch-covered streets and over 4,000 shops. The sheer size of it can be daunting. Just take your time. You can find anything from gold to carpets, spices to electronics, antiques to modern-day knock-off clothing, and local handicrafts. The mother of all shopping malls.

How to get there:

Turkish Airlines

I love Turkish Airlines. There is a reason they are the largest airline on the planet with the world’s largest airport. They know how to fly right.

Where to stay.

Conrad Istanbul Bosphorus

This trip was made with assistance from Goturkiye.com, but the opinions are those of the writer.

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One thought on “Istanbul- Michelin Guide’s New Star of the Day

  1. Thanks for a great Istanbul article. i love reading it! We tried your suggestion of the 1924 restaurant and enjoyed the food, service and atmosphere very much!! I d like to try the other restaurants as well. Wonderful descriptions of history and sites!

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