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Sep 08
Reviews (Eats)
Istanbul Culinary Institute: Letting the Inmates Run the Asylum

We recently wrote about the emergence of the “esnaf nouveau,” a new class of restaurant in Istanbul that puts a more sophisticated spin on the classic esnaf lokanta (or “tradesmen’s restaurant”), the place where working stiffs come to get their daily fix of traditional Turkish comfort food.

To the list of the “esnaf nouveau” in town we should add the restaurant/café at the Istanbul Culinary Institute, a stylish spot that since its opening a few years ago has become something of a neighborhood institution.

The idea here is simple: let the students of the culinary school upstairs prepare the food for the customers downstairs. The menu changes frequently depending on what is being taught, but it always features a selection of classics from the Turkish kitchen, sometimes made with organic fruits and vegetables grown on the ICI’s farm in Turkey’s Thrace region, near the Greek border.

Although it might sound like there’s an element of culinary risk in putting yourself in the hands of neophytes, we’ve always been happy with what comes out of the Institute’s kitchen. On a recent visit, we had very well-made mucver, zucchini fritters that were exceptionally fluffy and tasty – much lighter than other version of the dish that we have had around town – as well a nicely-done eggplant stew. Our dessert, a traditional milk pudding with stewed sour cherries at the bottom, was also very satisfying. And unlike dining at an old school esnaf lokanta, you can have a glass of wine with your meal and a cappuccino to finish it off.

There’s zero risk, meanwhile, when it comes to the restaurant/café’s interior – a stylish space that successfully fuses industrial cool with homey warmth. It’s the kind of space that wouldn’t seem out of place in New York, London, or any other capital of global chic.

Address: Meşrutiyet cad. No: 59, Beyoglu
Telephone: (212) 251-2214

(photo by Yigal Schleifer)

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