Fair warning: Anyone reading this article will likely write me off as a lovesick, Justin Bieber-style groupie, accuse me of not being rational, and wonder who is paying me off. But let me assure you that I am a sane, objective journalist, who just happened to find myself loving the cuisine on a recent trip to Istanbul.
So, yes, I’m about to gush (and I mean really gush) about four Istanbul restaurants that no self-respecting food lover should miss if they’re getting anywhere near the country of Turkey.
Like Italy, Turkey is obsessed with food.
From street vendors hawking roasted corn to grandmas in colorful hijabs (headscarves) handing you a cup of homemade yogurt, food is how you show your love. And boy, do the Turks show a lot of love.
So sit back, buckle your seatbelts, and get ready to be launched into "food heaven," Istanbul style.
Gile Restaurant. If Picasso had been a chef, not a painter, he’d have come up with something like this 40-seat restaurant in the trendy Akaretler neighborhood. Unless you have a serious allergy that guarantees a trip to the emergency room, get the tasting menu. Put your fates in the hands of Cihan Kıpçak and Üryan Doğmuş, the brilliant young chefs who opened this masterpiece just six months ago.
Every dish on Gile’s innovative tasting menu (and there are roughly 16 of them) is a piece of art, so beautiful you’ll want to snap a picture and send thank you notes back to the kitchen. Because, face it, you probably wouldn’t have been daring enough to order a dish with pine needles or a sorbet made from corn or a desert using chicken breast, three of the items on the tasting menu the night I was there. And had you missed these, you would definitely regret it.
Each course is better than the next. You’ll sample things like watermelon salad with coffee and walnut purée, duck pastrami served with rakı-scented melon, Circassian chicken (chicken with walnuts) pâté alongside pickled apples and black mulberry molasses, küşleme börek (puff pastry with lamb fillet) accompanied by black eggplant purée and the lamb’s shoulder slow-roasted for 41 hours.
The innovative Doğmuş, a C.I.A.-trained chef, although he doesn’t look old enough, spent time in the kitchens of Sarasota and Kapalua Ritz-Carltons, as well as several of Turkey’s top restaurants.
Now, with his own place, he spares no special touch: the dinnerware is designed exclusively by ceramic artist Mehmet Kutlu and the art on the spare, white walls was painted by Arkın Allen.