Not many restaurants employ a full-time anthropologist. But then Mikla in Istanbul is no ordinary restaurant. Tangör Tan works alongside chef and restaurateur Mehmet Gürs to rediscover a culinary heritage that’s in danger of disappearing, and revive it in a 21st century context.
The project has been called the New Anatolian Kitchen, and it sources rare ingredients such as halhali olives and halwa from obscure villages all over Turkey. While supporting independent farmers and producers, it also aims to explore ancient cooking techniques - experimenting with clay pots, urns and other earthenware vessels - to keep old traditions alive.
Dishes such as the ‘trakya kıvırcık’ lamb shank with smoked eggplant are strewn with local gems like tuzlu yoghurt, kayseri sausage and plum pestil. You can even find a refined riff on the staple Istanbul street food balik ekmek, which combines crispy hamsi fish with olive oil bread and lemon.
In tandem with this rediscovery of local ingrdients, Gürs’ food has an elegant simplicity that draws heavily on his Scandinavian heritage (he was born in Finland to a Finnish-Swedish mother and a Turkish father). The restaurant itself is equally sophisticated, with muted lighting, sleek minimalist styling, retro flourishes and a ‘flying carpet’ rooftop terrace, which floats above the glittering city from the 18th floor of the Marmara Pera hotel.
The World's 50 Best Restaurants and Diners Club International® present The Diners Club® 50 Best Discovery Series