We like to call this meal Istanbul’s redemption. The reason being is that our first couple of days (or week) in Istanbul have been rather unimpressive food all around. Especially after a visit to the infamous Nusr-et, a.k.a Salt Bae’s restaurant, I nearly cancelled our reservation at Mikla worrying it might be another meal that’s a waste of money. Thankfully, I didn’t and we were delighted to find Mikla Restaurant a worthwhile occasion when in Istanbul.
Mikla Restaurant: World’s Best 50
The foodie in me immediately made a reservation at Mikla straight after sorting out our flights & hotels. This is because not every day I can find myself in a position to dine at one of the World’s Best 50 Restaurants. As of 2021, Mikla Restaurant has ranked 60 but it has been up within the top 50 for consecutive years. The name ‘Mikla’ takes from the old Viking word ‘Miklagård‘, which means the great city. It is the brainchild of Turkish-Scandinavian chef Mehmet Gürs, showcasing a contemporary and visionary take on traditional Anatolian cuisine. The best part, though, is that it is perched at the top of The Marmara Pera hotel with some of the very best rooftop views across Istanbul.
As the elevator doors opened, we were immediately greeted by staff to take our coats into the cloakroom. The interiors were very bright and modern, bathed in golden rays of natural sunlight as we arrived around sunset golden hour. Each table faces the floor-to-ceiling window with panoramic views across the city, along with soft music in the background that really set an ambience.
3-course A La Carte menu (TLR 850 pp)
Fine dining, especially one with a view, typically comes with a hefty price tag. But Mikla Restaurant is a fairly affordable one, with its 3-course à la carte menu costing only 850 Turkish liras per person, which was roughly £44 at the time of our visit. If that’s not an absolute bargain, I don’t know what is. Alternatively, there is also a 7-course tasting menu (1350 TLR) available where you can get a taste of almost every dish.
Do note that some dishes may contain alcohol. Please make the staff aware and they can cater accordingly where possible. During our visit, only the Braised Lamb cannot be substituted.
Complimentary Tasting Dishes
We opted for the 3-course à la carte menu but, to our delight, also come with a range of small complimentary tasting dishes to try out. These dishes absolutely stole the show for the evening and set off our dinner with a lovely surprise to our palates. We honestly didn’t have a clue that these small tasting dishes were included so that just made the meal even better value for money.
Sea Bass Ceviche & Radish Slices
It was a burst of freshness, laced with a tangy edge of flavours, in your mouth. The sea bass ceviche has set the tone for the rest of the evening with its exquisite quality and flawless execution. It was so incredibly refreshing to taste and the perfect nibble to open up the palate. We were also given radish slices, served over what we think are mini charcoal tortilla crackers. Compared to the ceviche, it’s not as outstanding but still a great munch to start the meal nonetheless.
Mikla’s Balik Ekmek
Then we had their speciality and my favourite of the evening – Mikla’s own contemporary take on Balik Ekmek, i.e Turkish fish sandwich. I believe we got fresh anchovies on the day, which divinely oozed umami. I especially loved that beautiful crunch from the crispy sheet. It may seem small but it’s big on flavours and I am still dreaming about it as I write this post.
Personally, I’m not even a fan of eggplants but I enjoyed every single bite of this contemporary take on a traditional Turkish eggplant dip. A subtle roasted flavour seeped through at every scoop, laced with seaweed-like strands (I’m not entirely sure what they are, to be honest) that added a lovely earthy edge to the dish. The texture was also one that’s noteworthy. How was it so airy? I would never know, but I could be a hundred per cent certain that this was exceptional.
Ezine Cheese, Olive Oil, and Sourdough Wholewheat Bread
Last but not least of the tasting dishes, we were served with homemade sourdough wholewheat bread, olive oil, and Turkish cheeses. As simple as it may sound, it’s something that I’ve always thought tells a lot about the restaurant. What I can conclude is that Mikla Restaurant is truly a gastronomic endeavour that took traditional Anatolian produce to a next level. The flavour depth that the olive oil offered was remarkable to the palate.
Off to the actual 3-course menu! For our first course, I went with the grilled octopus. The octopus was cooked just right, featuring a soft and tender texture, with a subtle brush of sauce glazed over it. To pair, it was served with kohlrabi slices (German turnip) seasoned with a touch of turmeric and delicately folded like mini napkins on the side. Overall, it was a nice dish but, to me, it was missing a kick of spice and I would’ve loved to see the dish with a piquant edge and something a little punchier.
As for the other half, he went with the lionfish for his first course. Beautifully seared, the fish had hit the spot perfectly. It was well-seasoned and the delicate flavours of the lionfish really shone through. The dish also comes with a mix of karaman wheat, salicornia (a.k.a samphire or sea asparagus), arugula, fennel, and coriander, and it offered a lovely zing from the apple vinegar dressing to pair with the fish. All in all, we loved this one!
Grilled Pistachio Lamb Chops
Moving onto the mains, we had the grilled lamb chops, which we ordered medium-rare. Beneath that vibrant pink was some incredibly soft and tender lamb to bite into, beautifully crusted with chopped pistachios, with some of the freshest and cleanest flavours to the palate when it comes to red meat. In other words, these lamb chops were a delight to savour and their accompanying smoked potato puree, beetroot molasses, kale, isot chili, and mushroom all complemented each other impeccably. Whilst there weren’t any bold explosive flavours per se, it’s the supreme quality and flawless execution that’s making this dish a good one.
As for the other mains, I went with the Monkfish which comes with Karnikirmizi bean, calamari, camel sucuk, capers, halhali olives, and fig vinegar. I must say this was the silkiest monkfish I’ve ever had. It was almost mind-blowing how soft and smooth the fish was as it slipped into the mouth frictionlessly. The dish, overall, somewhat reminded me of home-style Italian flavours, especially with the tomato sauce and beans. I also enjoyed the calamari in the dish, which was fresh to taste and, all in all, quality stuff. Though what didn’t quite nail it for me is the missing of an oomph. I was hoping the camel sucuk would give more spice and fireworks to the dish but, unfortunately, didn’t quite do so. It’s still a great dish but, if it’s not for the silkiness of the monkfish, it’s not a particularly memorable one.
Sutlac (Rice Pudding)
Finally, desserts. First up was the Sutlac, i.e Turkish rice pudding, which comes with fig seeds, hazelnut crumb, and sour apple sorbet. We loved the elegant presentation of the dessert and loved just as much how it tasted. Moreishly creamy and chewy, the rice pudding wasn’t too heavy or sweet to taste at the same time. The hazelnut crumb added a lovely texture to it whilst the sour apple sorbet gave a very sharp zing to balance the rice pudding. All in all, it’s a very well thought out dessert to finish.
As for me, I opted for the Quince though I probably would’ve gone for the rice pudding as well if I had known what a quince actually is. A quince dessert is a fruity jelly-like dish made with seasonal quince fruit (a hard fruit that tasted something between an apple and pear). Personally, I am not a fan of fruity dishes so, naturally, I didn’t quite enjoy the Quince. Though I did enjoy the buffalo clotted cream on top, which was nicely drizzled with pine honey, and I adored the roasted hazelnut ice cream.
For drinks, the other half basically ordered every non-alcoholic mojito flavour available, which are strawberry, raspberry, and black mulberries. All three were fantastic – perfectly citrusy, sweet, and refreshing. The black mulberries mojito was relatively a more unique one. It was hard to pick a favourite out of the three but eventually, after a long long thought, he said probably the strawberry one was his favourite.
Mint Tea & ‘Petit Fours’
To the very last but not least, we each ordered a pot of mint tea and they also served us some ‘petit fours’ (in the form of baklava bites) to end the meal. The mint tea comes in a large cast-iron teapot, which kept the tea warm throughout and I’m sure contributed to the clean natural flavours of the tea as well. Despite the light colours, the tea was perfectly minty, with hints of natural sweetness, and soothing to taste. The petit fours made a lovely munch too, though interestingly a little more sugary than the typical baklava and not as syrupy. Nonetheless, they were still nice.
Restaurant Review Summary
Overall, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Mikla Restaurant. Although admittedly, the actual 3-course was great but not necessarily impressive. Whereas those small tasting dishes at the beginning were more of a highlight and definitely stole the spotlight for us. With the latter, we can see how it’s earned itself a top spot among all the restaurants in the world as its innovative take on contemporary Anatolian cuisine has been truly remarkable. For the actual main courses, apart from desserts, we personally would just like more oomph and spice to truly wow the palate. The quality & execution were there and it just needed an extra magic touch in our opinion.
Anyhow, the service has been good and the courses were well-paced throughout the evening. We already mentioned that the ambience was perfect and you just can’t fault a rooftop view. If you’re looking for a nice dinner spot for an occasion in Istanbul, Mikla should definitely be on your list.