Neolokal is a pioneer among the fine-dining restaurants of Istanbul, where chef-owner Maksut Aşkar blends the local culinary traditions with modern cooking and presentation techniques, using the best ingredients this land could offer. Chef Aşkar examines some traditional recipes and gives them a modern spin with the aim of protecting some of the “endangered” foods of Ottoman and Turkish heritage. The minimalist décor of the restaurant comes as a surprise inside a monumental 19th-century Art Nouveau building that once served as the central bank of the Ottoman Empire. The restaurant guests could take in the incredible night skyline of the old city through floor-to-ceiling windows when the restaurant opens for dinner time. The building itself has been transformed into SALT Galata -one of the top cultural institutions of the city- in the 2000s through a meticulous renovation by renowned Turkish architect Emre Arolat.
Neolokal offers 3 seasonally changing tasting menus always fresh and surprising: A 3-course menu that you could design yourself by picking from alternative dishes provided for each course; a 5-course fixed vegetarian menu and a 6-course fixed tasting menu. Chef Aşkar likes using traditional ingredients, so be prepared for starters like a phenomenal version of hummus, raw bonito on vine leaf and börek (phyllo pastry) filled in with chard and truffle mushrooms; main dishes like lamb with fennel served with smoked freekeh grains or dream-like desserts like burnt sheep yogurt pomegranate sorbet and hazelnut tahini halva served with a semolina dough filled in with pistachio and sesame croquant ice cream. The wine list of the restaurant deserves special mention, as it provides a rich and carefully handpicked sample of the Turkish wines, including more exotic local grapes, as well as natural and orange wines. This comes as no surprise, as it carries the stamp of the local wine guru Levon Bağış -Chef Aşkar’s good friend and partner at the popular wine bistro Foxy Istanbul.
The restaurant has been the first Turkish restaurant to enter the NFT art scene, selling 5 recipes by chef Maksut Aşkar on the Open Sea platform.
Before sitting at your table, you might want to explore the building housing Neolokal. It was constructed around a two-tier giant vault by the Ottoman-French architect Alexander Vallaury to guard the treasury of the Ottoman State and is open to visitors as part of the Ottoman Bank Museum occupying the basement of SALT Galata.