Above: Breaded garfish with greens, Alaf, Istanbul

Dining Discoveries in Istanbul

Breaded garfish with greens, Alaf, Istanbul

Whether on the street or in a fine-dining temple, the diverse flavors of Istanbul thrill the palate. Now that Michelin has reviewed 53 restaurants in this historic crossroads, awarding a handful of stars, perhaps the rest of the world will realize what anyone who’s explored the food here already knows: Turkey’s largest city is one of the great culinary capitals. Michelin awarded Turk Fatih Tutak restaurant with two stars, but neither of my concierges nor I could secure a reservation. People also steered me toward Mikla, a classic on The Marmara Pera hotel’s roof. Despite its one star, I found its food uneven and service sloppy. Fortunately, several other restaurants delighted. Here is a trio of my favorite discoveries.


Deconstructed dolma, Nicole, Istanbul - Andrew Harper editor

We had a lovely meal at Nicole, the Michelin one-star restaurant of chef Aylin Yazıcıoğlu. Her small, spare yet comfortable space atop the historic Tomtom Suites hotel affords views of Galata Bridge, and the open kitchen allowed us to watch the young staff at work. I was savoring a fine Negroni — great cocktails are not a given in Istanbul — when our server gently asked if he could start our three-course tasting menu. 

The sneaker-shod sommelier poured a floral Pinot Gris rosé from Kırklareli, north of Istanbul, refilling my glass for my first bites. These included bread stuffed with pickled cabbage and pomegranate cream, an odd combination that worked, sweet meeting sour. A deconstructed dolma with crispy rice and smoked yogurt was a textural, umami-driven pleasure, with contrasting dollops of pomegranate purée.

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Above: Breaded garfish with greens, Alaf, Istanbul

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