Just off the bustling Istiklal, Yeni Lokanta’s mission is simple: to use regional ingredients with a very loose interpretation of traditional dishes. After all, Yeni Lokanta means “new restaurant.”
After working at a number of foreign-cuisine restaurants in Istanbul, training at Leiths School of Food and Wine, and another six years at Istanbul’s now closed Changa, Chef Civan Er felt it time to open his own restaurant. That was 2013. Years later, the eatery continues to find itself on the radars of newcomers as well as the returning regulars. True to its name, the restaurant is modern, but never cold or uninviting. The high ceilings, typical Turkish tiles, green pendant lamps make it more comforting than not. But, the best part of the décor are the beautiful large doors that span the entire width of the restaurant. On warm summer nights, the doors open unto the street so that you can hear and watch Istanbul go by.
Er’s menu, at first glance, may seem like tradition Turkish and Anatolian fair. However, upon closer inspection, not all is as it appears. You’ll find delicacies like the cherished mantı (small dumplings covered in yogurt with hot paprika oil), but with eggplant in the place of ground beef filling. or classic köfte. You’ll also find ingredients that are rarely seen next to each other on one plate. For instance, the bulgur salad is topped sour cherries and a sumac molasses dressing – a delightful ebb and flow of savoury and sweet.
While the menu changes frequently there are a couple of staples, were they removed would likely prompt small riots. One of these is, of course, the in-house sourdough bread slathered with browned butter or a carrot-walnut spread.
And, then the dessert. Even if you’re that person who says desserts aren’t their “thing,” you may be surprised. Here too, the battles between sweet, savory, sour, light, and heavy come together with harmony and ingenuity on the plate. Er transforms the adored kadayıf pastry – crispy shredded semolina strands soaked in simple syrups – into bitesize doughnuts with smoke buffalo milk ice cream.
Chef Civan Er produced a restaurant with a serious and thoughtful menu, all the while keeping its down-to-earth quality. This is a must-eat restaurant!
Note: Reservation is required.