Yeni Lokanta

Turkish cuisine is much more than just kebab, meze or Lachmacun, as we could witness in our last trip to Istanbul, where the mix of ingredients, spices and textures rendered us speechless. A world of new flavours and almost limitless discoveries, paving the way for new restaurants to appear, as well as new chefs willing to take the Turkish cuisine back to older, more relevant times.

One of those restaurants is Yeni Lokanta – just as its name suggests, “new restaurant” – that opened its doors in 2013 through Civan Er, who was looking to stand out in a world of a more informal and sharing cuisine inspired by tradition, taking a more personal approach on the new Anatolian cuisine.

Cocktails with a nice, simple presentation and well-balanced flavours

As soon as we arrived at the restaurant, we could easily understand why the restaurant was so popular for both locals and visitors. The simple and somewhat rustic decoration, with a dimly lit environment, provides a unique ambience to a place where we could stay and enjoy for hours.

Comfortable, and after having decided on the cocktails, we chose the tasting menu for 2, an interesting new way to make its sharing cuisine idea known.

Manti, Antiochian yoghurt

First, one of the most memorable moments of this trip (so much that we ended up visiting another one of this chef’s restaurants just because of it), Manti, ravioli’s Turkish cousin. In this case, with meat filling, a superb yoghurt sauce, as well as pepper and herb oils. An explosion of flavours and sensations where everything comes together in perfection – I could easily eat this every single week.

Köfte tartare, potatoes, sumac and egg yolk.

Tartare inspired by the traditional Turkish meatballs, nicely plated and well-seasoned. On top, a kind of crispy Scottish egg of potato with liquid egg yolk on the inside.

Also noteworthy is the “sauce”, a type of molasses made with sumac (Turkish spice with an acidic flavour that can easily replace lemon).

The sourdough bread garnish is also pretty great!

Beetroot, sour cherry, almond and kaymak

A vegetarian dish, where the main highlights are the textures, as well as the connection between spice, herb oils and sumac. Everything goes along perfectly with kaymak (a thicker and fatter cream, traditionally used in Turkish deserts). A fine dish, even for those who are not so keen on beetroot, such as me.

Öcce, fresh herb fritters, sour cherry ice cream

Herbs instead of the classic zucchini, creating small crunchy balls with ice cream (actually, it was more of a sauce than a sour cherry ice cream). Despite being fresh and with some flavour nuances, it did not live up to the standards set by the dishes we had previously tasted.

Goat cheese, chards, chilli honey, hazelnuts and tamarind

A terrific dish! A rich and creamy cheese, medium grilled that created an interesting crispy top, chards with a nice texture blending perfectly with dried fruits and the balance between the different flavours of the sauces used.

Shrimp and vine leaves tempura

A traditionally Turkish tempura, with classic vine leaves, wrapped shrimps, fried on a crispy, thin batter. As a garnish, a fresh sauce made of yoghurt, chards and ginger. An interesting, simple and successful dish!

Lamb sausage, walnuts, borlotti bean and cucumber

The way the Turkish cuisine includes lamb on its dishes is second-to-none, and the Lamb Sausage is the proof – an explosion of flavours! A fantastic medium grilled lamb sausage, a flavoured cream of beans and nuts, and the contrasting freshness of the cucumber. Again, a simple yet delicious delicacy, well-balanced altogether from the flavour to the combination of different textures.

Octopus, yoghurt and bottarga

The Turkish octopus was never one of my favourite dishes and the one I tried was not an exception. The quality difference between this one and the Portuguese or Spanish octopus gives me mixed feelings, especially regarding its texture. Nevertheless, the freshness and lightness of the garnish, as well as the new dimension brought by the bottarga’s flavour, ended up being a nice addition to the less exciting protein.

Baked Alaska (Turkish version)

Raspberries, meringue, clotted cream and walnut are the ingredients to a well-balanced Turkish version of Baked Alaska.

Mahlep, salted caramel, hazelnut and pumpkin

Or better put, a Turkish panna cotta with salty caramel, Mahlep (a traditional seed used in Turkish bakeries), hazelnut and pumpkin sauce. Great balance on the sugar, nice texture – without the usual surplus of jelly – and excellent combination of flavours. A nice surprise indeed.

We ended up pairing every dish with cocktails, but you cannot go wrong within a wide variety of Turkish wines with plenty to offer.

Final remarks

Turkish cuisine and the traditions of all Anatolia are constantly changing. In a country where traditions try to remain intact, there are more and more young chefs such as Civan Er who try to write and define the future of this country’s cuisine. Not only by being faithful to its tradition, but also by opening the door to the world, to new techniques and more modern plating ideas.

That is exactly what we found at Yeni. Dishes with strong flavours, some of them unknown, a great blend of textures and a lot of freshness. Everything within a very modern and cosmopolitan setting that captivates both the locals and visitors. Well, as for ourselves, we will certainly come back. Especially because, even after several months after this trip, we just cannot forget the Mantis that jump-started this dinner.

Yeni Lokanta
Prices from 40€ – (without wines)
Tomtom, Kumbaracı Ykş. No:66, 34433 Beyoğlu – İstanbul
+90 212 292 25 50

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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