Monday, April 3, 2017

Miyabi Sushi & Japanese Grill Bar Gets a Thumbs Up!

Dear readers,

I don't know about you, but I love all sorts of sushi and sashimi and can easily eat it every day! However, my love affair with these delectable morsels of raw fish got off to a rocky start! I remember going to some of the best Japanese restaurants in NYC when I lived there and wouldn't touch the stuff and opted to eat the "cooked" Japanese delights. Funny story... my attitude changed after consuming way to many "depth chargers" (dropping a shot of hot sake into a glass of ice cold Sapporo Japanese beer) to build up my nerve to eat raw fish at Fujiyamama (now closed) on the Upper East Side and I haven't looked back since!

There is a number of very good Japanese restaurants and other restaurants with sushi on the menu in Istanbul, but compared to other parts of the world, it is pricier to go as often as I'd like to be quite honest.

I finally went to Miyabi Sushi & Japanese Grill Bar which is a hop, skip and jump from my apartment and located in Akatlar to attend a Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner on March 22nd. 

I have been a member of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, (an International Association of Gastronomy established in 80 countries worldwide) since 2009 and now hold the title "Officier du Baillage de Turquie" as a "non-professional" member. 

Normally our Chaine dinners are more formal and are organized at fine dining establishments with elaborate service and presentation, but for the past year, dinners are also organized at more "informal" dining establishments with less elaborate themes... like Miyabi, where we were served a very wide variety of Japanese treats to share,which were all incredibly delicious and yummy! I was definitely in sushi/sashimi and more heaven! 

Chaine des Rottisseurs Dinner @Miyabi Sushi & Japanese Grill Bar

Miyabi (which means elegance, refinement in modern Japanese) is an unpretentious modestly sized typical Japanese restaurant with a minimalist decor and indoor and outdoor dining areas (with a sliding roof closed during cooler weather).

Miyabi Sushi & Japanese Grill Bar (indoor dining area) 

Miyabi Sushi & Japanese Grill Bar (indoor dining area)

Miyabi Sushi & Japanese Grill Bar (outdoor dining area)

Miyabi Sushi & Japanese Grill Bar (outdoor dining area)
Open since 2014, the owners of Miyabi are not new to the scene and had opened one of the first "chi-chi" and trendy Japanese restaurants in Istanbul called Mori about 20 years ago... it eventually closed for a variety of reasons, but was a place I went quite often with my friends and family.

If I had gone to Miyabi with friends, I wouldn't have been fortunate enough to try all the different variety of dishes served to us during our Chaine dinner! It would not have been possible to eat all that food, but since the concept of the evening was "sharing", I literally went to town and tried everything we were served, but in small portions.

Our meal started with a selection of "Miso Soup", "Suzuki Carpaccio", "Yaki Gyoza", "Black Tiger Shrimp Tempura", "Rainbow Salad" and "Maguro Tartar"...

Miso Soup @Miyabi Sushi

Rainbow Salad @Miyabi Sushi

Maguro (Tuna) Tartar @Miyabi Sushi

Black Tiger Shrimp Tempura @Miyabi Sushi

Suzuki (Seabass) Carpaccio @Miyabi Sushi
What can I say! It was a wonderful opening! The Miso Soup was a little too salty for my taste (not a fan of salt at all), but everything else was definitely mouthwatering and very fresh!

Our next courses were a selection of "Sashimi" (Maguro, Sake & Suzuki) ... in other words tuna, salmon and seabass; and "Nigiri" (Maguro, Sake, Ebi & Unagi) ... or tuna, salmon, shrimp and eel. 

Nigiri @Miyabi Sushi
I didn't get a chance to take a photo of the sashimi plate unfortunately, because it was "gone" by the time I could take a picture! My tablemates and I were very competitive and not very coy and shamelessly and aggressively attacked the food with chopsticks in hand! 

Next up... sushi rolls!
Sushi Rolls @ Miyabi Sushi
The sushi rolls served were called "Yummy Yummy"(spicy scallops, crab & shrimp); "Salmon Ultra"; Rock'n Roll" (salmon tartar & eel); and "Ninja" (spicy crispy shrimp & tuna). These rolls are listed under "Chef's Rolls" on their menu and the combination of the fish and other ingredients were amazing and just burst in your mouth! Although I had eaten so much already, I could have easily finished this platter by myself (we were served 2 platters for each 4 people at table).

Now... time for our main course which was "Beef Teppanyaki", "Chicken Teppanyaki" and "Yasai Udon Noodles"

Beef Teppanyaki @Miyabi Sushi
To be honest, I'm not crazy about "cooked" Japanese cuisine. Is it good? Of course it is! The meat was seasoned properly and moist and the vegetables just right and al dente. I don't eat chicken, so I can't comment on the quality and also did enjoy the Udon Noodles. So, feel free to go to Miyabi with your "non-sushi" eating friends because they too will have a lovely meal.

Last but not least... it was time for the "classic" Japanese dessert... green tea ice cream!
Green Tea Ice Cream @Miyabi Sushi
Since I love green tea (drink 2 cups a day) and ice cream... this was definitely a win win dessert for me!

What an incredible meal we had at Miyabi Sushi & Japanese Grill Bar that I can kick myself for not going earlier... once the weather warms up a bit more, I look forward to going for lunch or dinner and sit outside and soak up some rays! 

Of course I enjoyed all these dishes with hot sake and ice cold Sapporo Japanese Beer... but this time, I had them separately and didn't make "depth chargers", so I was standing tall at the end of the dinner and got home safe and sound!



















Stay well,
Dani

Miyabi Sushi & Japanese Grill Bar
Zeytinoğlu Caddesi, Yaren Sokak No. 6/14
Akatlar, Istanbul
Tel: (0212) 352 0222
www.miyabisushi.com.tr

Reservations are recommended. Take-out & Catering Services available.



Monday, March 27, 2017

Vakko Patisserie Petit Four and Beyaz Fırın & Brasserie: My New Neighbors!

Dear readers,

I live in a centrally located area in Ulus in Istanbul. I love my neighborhood and walk at least 4-5 kilometers daily with Luka, "the love of my life" 6,5 year old Maltese dog. I am only about 10 minutes away from Ulus Park in one direction and about the same duration to the upscale Akmerkez shopping mall and Etiler with its many restaurants and cafes.

In the last few months a couple of newcomers that have caught my eye have opened in my neighborhood: Vakko Patisserie Petit Four (December, 2016) at Akmerkez Shopping Mall and Beyaz Fırın & Brasserie (February 2017) on Nispetiye Caddesi (Street) in Etiler...

@ Akmerkez Shopping Mall

@ Nispetiye Caddesi, Etiler

It was a cold and crisp day the first time I went to Vakko Patisserie several weeks ago: I had some errands to run and decided to stop by for a cup of Turkish coffee to check it out. Located at the Etiler side entrance of the mall, besides entering through the posh retail shop Vakko, you can also bypass the mall and enter from the street side entrance...


@ Akmerkez Shopping Mall
I entered the patisserie from the Vakko shop's entrance and immediately got mesmerized from the display of desserts staring back at me! I must say it was mouthwatering!
Vakko Patisserie Petit Four
Before I continue, I want to give my readers some info about Vakko, a posh and trendy longstanding family owned retailer selling its own line of clothing, accessories, etc. as well as selling those of other local and international brands. Vakko's history is long and interesting, so visit their website if you want additional info. 

Moreover, Vakko might have just opened its first (I'm sure not last) pastry shop but the retailer has been the purveyor of its own brand of first class and delectable chocolates for many many years... my personal favorite is the chocolate covered Turkish Delights. So, I wasn't totally surprised when they branched out and in fact, wondered why they waited so long!

The pastry and chocolate display area also has a small seating area, but I suggest you sit in the more spacious nicely decorated terrace (with an opening/closing ceiling) with comfy seating. The patisserie is not very big, but quaint and beautifully decorated in pastel tones.

Vakko Patisserie Petit Four
Besides the scrumptious desserts ... which are prepared under the supervision of famed pastry chef Philippe Chatelain (who holds the title Meilleur Ouvrier de France Pattissier) by another noted French pastry chef Ghislain Gaille. I must admit, the French are masters at making desserts that's for sure! 

Vakko Patisserie also has a nice selection of soups, eggs, sandwiches, salads, etc. prepared by French chef Anthony Baudet, which I can't wait to try! Undoubtedly, the menu also includes a wide selection of coffees and teas with a special "tea time" menu. A glass of champagne or wine might also hit the spot in the afternoon or early evening... ask to see the separate menu.

I've been to Vakko Patisserie twice since it opened and on both occasions only had a Turkish coffee (wonderful presentation!) served with Vakko's chocolates...
Vakko Patisserie Petit Four
BUT... the first time I went, I succumbed and did buy a Vanilla Millefeuille (napoleon in English) to eat later at home! 
Vakko Patisserie Petit Four
I can't begin to tell you how good it was!!!! I can honestly say it was the best millefeuille I've had in my long life as a major dessert eater and lover!! But, after finally reaching my ideal weight in November, 2016 after years of being overweight, my love affair with desserts is limited and has to be worth it - and the pastries at Vakko Patisserie are definitely worth walking a few extra kilometers with Luka to maintain my weight!




















Vakko Patisserie is open daily between 10:00am and 10:00pm. Bon appetit! (www.vakko.com.tr) 

**********
Beyaz Fırın, when literally translated means "White Oven". But, the word "fırın" when used in this context, also means "purveyor of all sorts of sweet and salty baked goods". 

This family owned baked goods seller has been around since 1836! With 6 branches on the Asian side of the city, Beyaz Fırın has finally opened a branch on the European side of the city (if we don't count the fact that it's first branch was in the historical Balat neighborhood in 1836). The brand started evolving and flourishing in the mid-1990s and has a very good reputation with quality products and services.

I stopped by the newly opened Etiler branch last week on a sunny afternoon during our walk with Luka. I ran into a couple of friends and sat and had a cup of Turkish coffee with them.

Beyaz Fırın & Brasserie, Etiler

Beyaz Fırın & Brasserie, Etiler
The 2-story indoor and outdoor seating venue is fairly large with seating for 300 indoors and 184 in the outdoor section. Simply decorated in the brand's colors which are turquoise and orange, both the indoor and outdoor sections are airy and comfortable.

Beyaz Fırın & Brasserie, Etiler
I had the opportunity to meet Nathalie Stoyanof, the 5th generation family member running the organization about 10 years ago when I interviewed her for an article for The Guide Istanbul when I was the General Manager and Editor-in-Chief at one of their branches on the Asian side of the city (can't remember which branch) and I was very impressed with the variety of their baked goods. Ms. Stoyanof-Suda is also an accomplished pastry chef and graduated from the Cordon Bleu in France, so she's very hands on.

I didn't eat anything on this first visit, but did look at their mouthwatering selections and purchased a bag of whole wheat crackers to munch on at home! But, I did take lots of pictures and wanted to share just some of them with you to wet your appetite! Did I mention that they also make their own chocolates too?

Beyaz Fırın & Brasserie, Etiler

Beyaz Fırın & Brasserie, Etiler

Beyaz Fırın & Brasserie

Beyaz Fırın & Brasserie
  
Beyaz Fırın & Brasserie, Etiler

Beyaz Fırın & Brasserie, Etiler
Beyaz Fırın & Brasserie

While there, I forgot to look at the menu for the Brasserie... but thank god for the internet where I found the pdf for their menu. I suggest you DON'T look at it if you are hungry!!! The menu is incredibly vast with all sorts of Turkish and international goodies... and all illustrated with lovely photographs of the dishes served!!!!

Beyaz Fırın & Brasserie




















Beyaz Fırın & Brasserie is open daily from 7:00am to midnight (winter) and until 1:00am (summer).

**********

I am sure that once the weather starts warming up, I will be going back to these two newcomers in my neighborhood more frequently during my walks with Luka or with friends... I'm definitely in trouble! 


Stay well,
Dani

Monday, March 20, 2017

TOI ISTANBUL: Revisited at New Location

Dear readers,

I know it has been a long time since my last post but the latter part of 2016 was a busy time for me with several trips abroad and projects for customers. Alsoto be quite honest, I didn't get a chance to visit new restaurant/cafes or even if I did, I didn't feel they were worthy of a write-up! 

Finally, a couple of weeks ago I attended a dinner organized by my dear friend Burçak Desombre, a certified sommelier who organizes tasting menu dinners with wine pairings for groups up to 20 people at noteworthy restaurants around the city.

Although I have written about TOI Istanbul before (May, 2016), I felt this lovely fine dining restaurant deserved an update so that I could give you info about its new location as well as general info about the menu, etc.

TOI (pronounced toy-e) Istanbul moved to its current location in Kuruçeşme, right across the street from Kuruçeşme Park on the Bosphorus in November, 2016. The venue was quite popular at it's previous location, but now, TOI Istanbul can accept more diners and is more centrally located.

On the 2nd floor of a two story building (Japanese restaurant below)... as you walk up the stairs, you know you will be stepping into a fine dining restaurant...

TOI Istanbul 
Dimly lit and elegantly decorated, the dining tables can be organized based on the reservations for the evening... so a huge table was set up for our group in the center of the dining room ...

TOI Istanbul
Also... notice the ceiling? Once the weather warms up, it can be opened so you can not only enjoy an "outdoor" dining experience, but will also have a lovely view of the Bosphorus depending on where you are sitting!

I'm not going to share photos of our dinner as I did this in my previous post and don't want to repeat myself. Moreover, some of the tasting dishes we had were "off the menu items". I must add however that I love the china ... all plates are not the same size or color, but rather selected and designed for the dish you order. The water glasses are colorful and butter dishes are ceramic. So, not only is the food fantastic, but the presentation refined and appealing! The music played is also very good and further adds to a fine dining experience. 

Now,  I will give you  general information about TOI's menu. Chef and owner Ismet Saz (you can also read about him in my previous post), changes his menu every 45 to 50 days, but does keep some of the favorites as long as it's in season.   

The a la carte menu is not very crowded and includes 10 starters (24 TL - 62 TL); 4 pasta & risotto (40 TL - 46 TL) dishes , 10 main courses, with an emphasis on fish (41 TL to 175 TL) and 4 sides (22 TL). Unfortunately, I forgot to look at the dessert menu as I'm constantly watching my weight now that I'm where I'm supposed to be after losing 17 kg last year!

There is also a 7-course tasting menu (currently 195 TL), with (115 TL) or without wine pairing option which you can order at your table or Chef's Table area. 

Just like at its previous location, their is an open kitchen with a section for those diners opting for a Chef's Table experience (up to 4-6 people) with a spacious fully-stocked bar withseating. Of course, let's not forget TOI's wine list which is very impressive with an extensive list of wines from Turkey and around the world at prices that are lower than at "like" restaurants around the city! So, you can easily enjoy a bottle (or 2 ... or 3...) with your meal without paying through the nose! By the glass prices are a little higher, but the quality of the wines warrant the higher prices. 

TOI Istanbul
Last, but not least... TOI is now serving Sunday Brunch between 11:00am and 4:00pm. But, this is not your typical open buffet Sunday Brunch to be sure! Besides some of the "classics" fresh lobster, shrimp, Serrano ham and so much more is offered (I have to definitely go!) for a cost of 195 TL/person which includes a glass of champagne (Moet & Chandon).

Our group totally enjoyed our night at TOI Istanbul ... the food was fantastic... the ambiance as expected and great conversation with new and old acquaintances... what else can you ask for? Reservations are highly recommended. 
TOI Istanbul

Stay well,

Dani






TOI ISTANBUL
Kuruçeşme Caddesi No. 11
Kuruçeşme, Istanbul
Tel: +90 212 258 00 29
www.toiistanbul.com.tr
Open Monday-Saturday between 
6:00pm 2:00am
Sunday Brunch served on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month