Editor’s note: In the inaugural post of our new recurring feature, First Stop, we ask Chef Ana Sortun of the much-beloved restaurant Oleana and bakery Sofra in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she heads first for food when she arrives in Istanbul. Sortun received the James Beard Foundation’s award for “Best Chef Northeast” in 2005 and wrote the cookbook Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean. Her newest restaurant, Sarma, opened at the end of 2013 in Somerville, Massachusetts.
When I arrive in Istanbul, I usually arrive in the afternoon and try to stay awake through an early dinner. If I am by myself, I shoot for dinner at the bar at Yeni Lokanta , which Şemsa Denizsel [chef of Kantin ] had told me about, and have [Civan Er’s] dried eggplant mantı and hummus with za’atar. When I was there last October, I fell in love with a stuffed grape leaf that was round and flat and crispy from the oven – it looked like a small grape leaf pie – and topped with labne. In fact, that last time I loved the experience so much, I visited two nights during my stay and brought some friends with me on the second visit so I could try more things! Everyone was so friendly and it was a nice relaxing spot to enjoy delicious food on my own.
Read the rest of Sortun’s favorites at Culinary Backstreets .