Last Thursday night I was happy to be invited by my friend Rene Ames to Lokanta Maya, one of the most popular new bistros in Istanbul. He started the Food & Beverage Group, a group dedicated to good food and beverage encompassing the world’s culinary fares that are found in Istanbul, whether offered in restaurants or in private settings. He organizes dining events in local venues that serve impeccably-prepared and creatively-conceived food as well as tasting events.
Lokanta Maya was chosen as the venue for the first event of 2012. And well chosen indeed! Really a hidden gem in one of the back streets of Karaköy. The tasty, modern design of the bistro was a prelude of the tasty, modern and creative dishes that were awaiting us.
Chef-owner Didem Şenol, who studied in New York the French Culinary Institute and wrote a nice and colorful cookbook Aegean Flavours, prepared an interesting menu for our group of foodies. She worked in New York’s Le Cirque and in the 3 Michelin-starred Danny Meyer’s Eleven Madison Park restaurant. In 2010 she won Time Out Istanbul’s Best Chef Award.
After being welcomed with an Assembly cocktail the friendly and professional staff seated us in our carefully ‘Rene choreographed’ arrangement. We were offered five of Didem Şenol’s exquisite Aegean starters.
- Legume salad with pomegranate
- Zucchini fritters, dill yogurt sauce
- Marinated sea bass
- Crispy fresh anchovies with traditional sauce made of garlic, olive oil, and egg
- Warm goat cheese, persimmons, almond
I’m not a great lover of things fried, except French fries. My favorite appetizer was the salad of green lentils, bulgur, rucola salad, parsley and pomegranate. A great and creative combination, and a perfect mix of sweet and sour. The warm goat cheese was my second favorite, loved itM!
The dinner menu was wine-paired with our sponsor for tonight UMURBEY wines, one of Turkey’s prestigious boutique labels. The white wine, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, of 2007 matched well with the starters. The red wine was a disappointment. I couldn’t get the real flavor of it as it was unfortunately served cold! That’s a problem in many Turkish restaurants. They serve their red wines way too cold ‘because the customers want it that way’. Well then we have to start educating Turkish wine drinkers and show them that red wine should be served at a room temperature to enjoy the taste of the red wines.
As entree I chose wine basted sea bass with fennel “Pilaki”. It was a disappointment for me. I missed something that would have given the sea bass some more flavor. As a real foodie I couldn’t resist asking Rene if I could a lso taste some of his grilled chicken with pumpkin orzo risotto. Wow! That was really a feast of flavors.
I was not impressed with the restaurant’s desserts: Pudding Mastic and Pumpkin puree. To be honest I’m not a great lover of desserts anyway. Overall we had a great evening and two in our group – me included – had a special surprise by the restaurant (thanks to Rene!). A candle on our dessert as we celebrated our birthdays. Thanks!
We enjoyed a lovely evening and had some great dishes from the contemporary Aegean-Turkish cuisine. For the whole experience I would rate the restaurant with a 8+
LOKANTA MAYA is located right in the next block after the Güllüoğlu Baklavacı in Karaköy. There’s a multistoried parking garage next door.
Kemankeş Caddesi 35/A
Tel. +90 212 252 6884
Open Tuesday-Saturday noon-5pm and 7pm-11pm
Monday: lunch only
Lokanta Maya was rated as one of The Guardian’s 10 Best Restaurants in Istanbul http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2011/sep/14/10-best-high-end-restaurants-istanbul