Eating Out, Travel

New Anatolian Cuisine at Mikla – Istanbul, Turkey

I recently visited the beautiful city of Istanbul for my first time. While the trip was focused on a wedding and reunions, I couldn’t resist the opportunity  to check off another World’s 50 Best Restaurant, Mikla.

Mikla Chef Owner Mehmet Gürs is credited with helping establish the New Anatolian Kitchen – a food movement that takes traditional Anatolian cooking and elevates it with modern creativity.

For the relative price point of $90USD, drinks included, I thought my dinner experience was a good value. Compared to other similarly ranked restaurants around the world though, the execution and service were not quite there. While I enjoyed the starters and desserts, the main entrees were very overcooked and overall forgettable.

The seven course tasting menu didn’t offer any exclusive dishes beyond those offered a la carte. Since I dined here with a group of four, we decided to go with the three course a la carte menu to try more options. If you go in a larger group, I would recommend this route since the portions were very sharable.

Complimentary Bites

Regardless of chosen menu, the meal started with complimentary bites and bread. Mikla’s iconic take on the local Balık Ekmek (fish sandwich) was standout. The extra thin bread was interpreted as cracker on a stone stand, with a sardine section baked in the middle.

I also enjoyed the zesty olive oil, goat milk butter, and cheese spread that came with the house bread.

Mikla - "Balık Ekmek", sardine, buttered bread, lemon
“Balık Ekmek”, sardine, buttered bread, lemon

Mikla - Cucumber and Cheese
Cucumber and Cheese
Mikla - Cracker Sandwich
Cracker Sandwich
Mikla - Hummus
Hummus
Mikla - Olive Oil, Goat Milk Butter, Cheese Blend
Olive Oil, Goat Milk Butter, Cheese Blend

First Courses

The Iskenderun Prawns with rock samphire and sugar bean hummus was my favorite among our four first courses. The jumbo prawns were tender and the samphire greens had good contrasting brightness with the creamy, mild hummus.

The olive oil braised Artichoke was another strong dish – simplicity done right.  The Red Mullet had a similar winning combo of punchy flavors and contrasting creamy texture as the prawns. Only the Chilled Dried Beef was a dud.

Mikla - Iskenderun Prawns, Sugar Bean Humus, Rock Samphire, Hazelnut
Iskenderun Prawns, Sugar Bean Humus, Rock Samphire, Hazelnut
Mikla - Zeytinyağlı, Olive Oil Braised Artichoke, Sorrel
Zeytinyağlı, Olive Oil Braised Artichoke, Sorrel
Mikla - Red Mullet, Borage Root, Arapsaçı, Walnut, Antep Pepper
Red Mullet, Borage Root, Arapsaçı, Walnut, Antep Pepper
Mikla - Dried Beef, Tenderloin, Sultaniye Pea, İsot Pepper, Ezine Cheese
Dried Beef, Tenderloin, Sultaniye Pea, İsot Pepper, Ezine Cheese

Second Courses

The meal went off course for the main entrees. My favorite dish was the vegetarian option of Asparagus which was cooked to perfection, retaining the right amount of snap.

The Octopus was disappointingly chewy, the Sea Bass tough, and the Braised Lamb overly dry. Presentation was also uninspired.

Mikla -
Güveç, Asparagus, Broadbean, Chard, Pickled Pumkin Seeds, Roasted Almond
Mikla - Octopus, Sour Apple Pickle, Sea Bean, Purslane, Apple Vinegar
Octopus, Sour Apple Pickle, Sea Bean, Purslane, Apple Vinegar
Mikla - Sea Bass, Wine Leaf, Pickled Mandarin, Salicornia, Sakız Artichoke
Sea Bass, Wine Leaf, Pickled Mandarin, Salicornia, Sakız Artichoke
Mikla - Braised Lamb, Walnut Paste, Olive Oil Braised Pea, Potato, Bergama Tulum Cheese
Braised Lamb, Walnut Paste, Olive Oil Braised Pea, Potato, Bergama Tulum Cheese

Third Courses

I did think that dessert salvaged the meal, with the punchy, yet balanced flavors. This was my first time having Tavuk Göğsü, a traditional local dessert made with chicken breast. Though strange sounding to my foreign palette, the chicken added an intriguing depth to the dish, without being offensively “animal” in taste. The sour flavors from fermented fig, mulberry, and apple complemented the fullness of the chicken.

The other three options all featured a cold sorbet or ice cream like portion, contrasted with a vibrant fruit and/or rich chocolate. My sweet tooth indulged in all equally.

Mikla - Tavuk Göğsü, Fermented Fig Seed, Turunç, Mulberry, Sour Apple Sorbet
Tavuk Göğsü, Chicken Breast, Fermented Fig Seed, Turunç, Mulberry, Sour Apple Sorbet
Mikla - Vişne & İrmik, Çöven Foam, Sunflower Seed, Black Mulberries Sorbet
Vişne & İrmik, Çöven Foam, Sunflower Seed, Black Mulberries Sorbet
Mikla - Intense Chocolate, Hardaliye & Deveci Pear, Orange Sorbet, Poppy Seed
Intense Chocolate, Hardaliye & Deveci Pear, Orange Sorbet, Poppy Seed
Mikla - Strawberry, Cardamom, Basil, Antep Birdshit Pistachio
Strawberry, Cardamom, Basil, Antep Birdshit Pistachio (partially eaten)

Wine

In lieu of pairings, we opted for a recommended bottle of Turkish white and red wine from Thrace region in Turkey which borders Greece. The Albarino & Narince blend was bright and mineral dry white. This became pretty good after some breathing time.

The Öküzgözü is a red grape that had a gasoline nose, medium body, and an earthy spice to it. I enjoyed this dry red quite a bit.

Chamlija Alberino & Narice 2016, Thrace, Turkey
Chamlija Alberino & Narice 2016, Thrace, Turkey
Mikla - Tugra Okuzgozu 2016, Thrace, Turkey
Tugra Öküzgözü 2016, Thrace, Turkey
Mikla - Menu Page 1
Menu Page 1
Mikla - Menu pg 2
Menu Page 2

While I enjoyed the meal overall and appreciated the rooftop ambience, I did feel somewhat let down by the execution of the main entrees. Given Mikla’s reputation in the global fine dining scene, I expected more elevated dishes and refined service as well.

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