Lokanta Maya

lokantamayaAfter some very traditional and haute Ottoman cuisine dishes, it was time for us to know the other side of Istanbul, more contemporary without forgetting its roots and traditions. For that purpose we chose to visit the Lokanta Maya, a restaurant open since 2010 by the hand of the chef Didem Şenol, who from its opening has been revolutionizing the coastal region of Karaköy. Didem graduated in the United States, on the famous French Culinary Institute, but returned to her country of origin to recreate the Turkish cuisine under her point of view.

The focus of the restaurant is apparently simple, offering dishes full of flavor with local and seasonal ingredients. The menu reflects just that, changing on a daily basis and according to the time of the year, presenting the best of each ingredient. The idea is promising.

Arriving to the restaurant we are surprised by a room with minimalist decoration, lots of tables, mid light and good ambiance music. More cosmopolitan just its guests, among foreigners and Turkish, the environment flows between a mixture of art, fashion and gastronomy to the good style of London.

Already at the table, observing the space vibe, we appreciated a very interesting cheese with peppers and olive oil accompanied with great bread (fortunately the good bread is a rule at the good restaurants of the city, and I’m thankful for that).

Lokantamaya - 2Butter with Salmon roe, bread with bergamot
This butter was a true revelation, we arrived to Istanbul short while after a passage through Paris where we found great butters, but this junction with roe, the freshness and light flavor of the sea, with the fat and greasiness of the butter and a bit of pink pepper were an astonishing start. And, accompanying, great bread.

Lokantamaya - 1Homemade Pastrami, sourdough bread
Excellent Pastrami, cured for the right amount of time, great texture and a slightly spicy touch. Once again, with delicious bread. Very good.

Lokantamaya - 3Mussels in white wine, bread with garlic
The Turkish have a passion for mussels, them being one of the main street foods. Here, reinterpreted between the flavors from Turkey and the Belgians technique. Wine, herbs and tomato, resulting in tasty and succulent mussels. Very good.

Concerning appetizers, there was still time to taste some kind of zucchini “pataniscas” (fritters) with yogurt sauce and coriander; these are one of the brands of Lokanta Maya, with the recipe figuring in one of the big mirrors of the room. Creamy inside, slightly crunchy outside, and delicious!

Lokantamaya - 4Spicy shrimp, smashed barley
Good quality shrimp, cooked perfectly. Smashed barley transmitting both the creaminess of a puree and some more al dente textures of a risotto. Good combination, flavored with herbs, some a bit crunchy giving even more elements to the dish.

Lokantamaya - 5Confit Duck, white bean puree, olive tapenade
A huge dose, with two confit duck legs, succulent and falling apart just like they should. Also great the puree and the adding of the tapenade and the olives to break a bit the greasiness and weight of the dish. All the elements were delicious; however, in the combination I missed some sauce to connect it all.

Lokantamaya - 6Semolina cake, Lavender ice cream
In the end, there was only space for one dessert, we chose one of Lokanta Maya’s classics, small cakes made with semolina, quite moist and tasty. To go with, dried fruits and a delicious lavender ice cream, with an intense flavor and a good texture. Excellent ending.

We accompanied our meal with wine by the glass, choosing whites of the Chardonnay caste of Turkish origin.

The service is relaxed and informal, but with the right professionalism, good English and a smile that always goes well.

Final Remarks
Didem Şenol’s work at Lokanta Maya is commendable, first, it’s a women ruling the destiny of a restaurant with a basis on Turkish roots, second, the unusual choice, in 2010, of its location, nowadays revealing on point, with the area progressing to other gastronomical horizons, and the presence of Istanbul’s modern art museum, reflecting also the image of this space. The cuisine is more than Turkish, there’s the influence of the Mediterranean, the Aegean region and of course her training, resulting in simple and comforting dishes like a mother would cook, but at the same time contemporary on their looks and full of technique and flavor. Lokanta Maya was a great experience, full of good energy and good food in the transition between the classical and the most modern sides of the Turkish cuisine. I hope to go back one day, until then, I’ll try to duplicate the recipe of the famous zucchini fritters.

Lokanta Maya
Kemankeş Caddesi 35/A, Karaköy, Istanbul
+ 90 212 252 6884
info@lokantamaya.com

Photos: Flavors & Senses and Lokanta Maya

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