Turkey: Upscale Restaurants and Bars in Istanbul

One of the great things about Istanbul is, of course, the food. Turkey has some excellent classic and traditional cuisine, but Istanbul also houses some of the finest modern restaurants in the country. We ate plenty of street food and traditional items, but we did make it to a few modern and upscale restaurants and bars and we were very pleased–with the prices and the food!

The day we arrived in Istanbul was our second anniversary and while we would have liked to go out that night to celebrate, we were too exhausted after our journey and almost losing my bag at the airport to go very far from our hotel, which meant no fancy dinner for us that night. We postponed our celebration until the following evening when we made the trek out to the Sakip Sabanci Museum in Emerigan, a ways up the European side of the Bosphorous. The museum itself is in a mansion on lovely grounds, facing the water.

The view from the Sakip Sabanci Museum

Outside the museum

It was founded by Sakip Sabanci, a wealthy businessman and art collector who lived in the mansion. He even had a room dedicated to himself, filled with pictures of him with various politicians, celebrities, and dignitaries, as well as various honorary degrees he has received. Yes, it was a little weird. The museum had two exhibitions going on at the time; one called “Across – The Cyclades and Western Anatolia During the 3rd Millennium BC,” which dealt with the trading between the Cyclade islands and Anatolia. They had various artificats, as well as a full-size replica of a Cycladic ship, which was pretty fascinating. The other was more contemporary, and quite interesting. Put on by French artist Sophia Calle, “For the Last and First Time” had two parts. The first was her interviews with blind people about the last thing they remembered seeing, and trying to recreate that image through photograph. The second part was videos filing residents of Istanbul who had never seen the sea (although the city is surrounded by it).

Also in the museum is the restaurant MuzedeChanga. Consulting New Zealand chef Peter Gordon crafted a fantastic menu of modern interpretations of Turkish cuisine, and the space was designed by the Autoban Design Team and won Wallpaper Magazine’s design award in 2007.

Interior of MuzedeChanga restaurant

Bar area at MuzedeChanga

Outer wall detail at MuzedeChanga

Not sure how these exactly fit in with the rest of the restaurant design, but the cocktail menus were hilarious. Mine was Freddie Mercury from Queen.


And there was a whole array of celebrities:

I even loved the salt and pepper shakers.

On to the food…we started with a few mezze as is common at Turkish meals. We started with Spicy Walnut and Pumpkin Spread, and also got served a house smoked cheese spread. Both were absolutely delicious and a great start to the meal.

We also had a great artichoke salad with green beans and fried zucchini flowers stuffed with Lor cheese (a local Turkish cheese).

 Our favorite mezze was mushroom dumplings with a mint salad. The flavors were just very complex and interesting, and of course yummy!The mezzes ended with complimentary goat cheese toasts.

Our main courses were a Spinach and Lor Cheese Tortellini with a Lemon Porcini Sauce and Lamb and Beef Kofte (Turkish meat patties) with a wonderful salad. Both were fantastic.

For dessert we had something amazing: a fresh fig and vanilla custard with pastry. The custard was so delicious and I love fresh figs, and of course many of them are grown in Turkey.

Our meal was finished with handmade fresh tangerine Turkish delight. Normally I dislike Turkish delight, but I guess I’ve never had it fresh before because this was light and fluffy and had such an intense flavor. And, it was pretty.

Our next “fancy” locale was Leb-I-Derya, a rooftop bar in Taksim, on top of the Richmond Hotel. We mostly went there for the view, but had some fabulous drinks there as well.

The view to our left at Leb-I-Derya

This is where we sat--not bad, eh?

Panoramic of view and restaurant

Bosphorous and boats

Pear mojito--so good.

Virgin Lemonade, also amazing

I'm happy

We're happy

City panorama

Our other upscale meal was at Lokanta Maya in Karakoy. We got there early, which was lucky because that’s the only reason we got a table without a reservation. It has a modern, sleek design and I loved the main light fixture.

Although the prices at Lokanta Maya are incredibly reasonable, the food is incredibly gourmet, fresh, organic, and creative. We opted to get a few mezze and one entree and it was the perfect amount.

Whipped roe and baby olives

Zucchini fritters

Warm goat cheese with caramelized onions and almonds

Grilled chicken with beet orzo

While the dishes sound simple, they were incredibly well-made and very satisfying. Our waiter convinced us to try a traditional Turkish dessert of mastic pudding with sour cherries. The mastic come from the gum tree, and it had a sort of gummy texture and a very faint bubblegum flavor. It was interesting and we were glad we got to try it.

If you’re looking for a modern, good meal in Istanbul both MuzedeChanga and Lokanta Maya will satisfy you. And Leb-I-Derya is worth the hefty price tags on the drinks for the spectacular view.

3 Comments

Filed under Food, Turkey

3 responses to “Turkey: Upscale Restaurants and Bars in Istanbul

  1. Iris

    Love the Maya place! Enjoy the delicious food!

  2. Talk about fine dining! Great pics, my friends!

  3. Pingback: Turkey: Street and Snack Food At Its Finest | Brooklyn Meets Bombay

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