Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lokanta Farina at Ormanada/Zekeriyaköy: For a Bit of Fresh Air & Delectable Delights!

Update: Unfortunately this lovely restaurant has closed. (October 2015)

Dear readers,

We all have our "comfort zones" and are "set in our ways" one way or the other let it be in our dining & entertainment habits, where we shop, where we live... etc. etc. 

Especially since I live in Istanbul and since we have a major traffic problem, I usually like to "stay closer to home" since I don't want to deal with sitting in traffic to get somewhere and then back home - specifically on the weekends!

However, a couple of weeks ago, I stepped out of my comfort zone to visit Lokanta Farina which is located in Zekeriyaköy at Ormanada, a brand new 44,000 square meter deluxe verdant residential complex with 188 villas and 81 row houses! 

Although it is only 18 km from where I live in Levent, I felt like I was in another city! And... the traffic was much lighter than I thought to get there! The surroundings were so expansive and green green green - something we miss living in a cosmopolitan city like Istanbul which has a population of about 13 million inhabitants! Yet again... I was still in Istanbul! What a breath of fresh air! 

I met Jale Balcı,  the owner and executive chef of Lokanta Farina in 2010 when I was invited to the launch of her 2nd cookbook titled "Antakya City & Cuisine" at Antiochia Restaurant (she is the co-owner with her brother) in Asmalımescit in the heart of the Pera District.  I had previously tasted Antiochian cuisine but I was totally mesmerized by the delectable delights I tasted that day and most importantly, all the recipes were in Jale's cookbook (it is separately available in Turkish and English and can be purchased from her website directly too)! Antakya, which is part of the Hatay region is located in Southern Turkey and borders Syria. Antakya's cuisine is renowned and the cuisine is more "Levantine" than Turkish cuisine.

Jale and I have been in touch on and off in the past 4 years and are "Instagram" and "Twitter" friends so when she started writing that she was opening a new restaurant I got very excited to see what was up her sleeve! After much planning and creating her menu, Lokanta Farina (lokanta means restaurant in Turkish and farina is the Italian word for flour) opened in late June, but with all the traveling I did in the last few months, I just had a chance to visit her new place on a sunny, yet cold and windy Sunday afternoon (October 19) with my sister Meltem, nephew Arman and good friend Müjgan for lunch.

It took us about half an hour to get to Zekeriyaköy from Levent and it was definitely worth the trip.

Lokanta Farina has indoor and outdoor seating areas, but it was a little to cool to sit outside, but she will be installing heaters to use her terrace throughout the winter.

The venue is not very big, but it is beautifully decorated in a minimalist style and I loved the different accents all around the space... you just know that there is a women's touch here - let it be the decor or the presentation of the dishes.

"Accents" at Lokanta Farina/Ormanada
Jale's motto is to serve "healthy, hearty, satisfying and tasty dishes" not only from Antiochian cuisine, but others as well.

With menu in hand, we started perusing the list and decided that it would be best to try a whole host of different dishes and except for the pancakes my nephew ordered, all the other dishes we selected were from Antiochian cuisine.

We tried not to eat too much homemade warm fresh bread with butter before our order came, but we weren't very successful! 

We started out by trying the "mini crostini" which was a selection of bite-sized Antiochian delights (humus, muhammara, ezme, etc.); "İçli Köfte" which is similar to the Arabic kibbeh (deep fried oval shaped balls of bulgur wheat stuffed with minced meat); falafel (no explanation needed) and whipped stracciatella cheese (an Italian cheese) on a bed of olive oil,topped with cubes of red bell peppers.    

We also had "Muhammara" (red pepper and walnut dish); "Kuru Dolma" (Sun-dried green peppers stuffed with minced meat); "Sliced tomato salad with cheese (topped with zahtar - a spice made with roasted sesame seeds and sumac) and "Köfte" (Turkish style meatballs) on a bed of cannelloni beans flavored with beets! Talk about original... who would have thought you can combine beets and beans - it was absolutely delicious!

Jale was busy running around, but she did get a chance to sit and chat with us for a while from time to time and I was thrilled for her because she is very hardworking and conscientious. She has created a very good and balanced menu at Lokanta Farina and of course, the dishes will change according to season and availability of fresh ingredients.
Me and Jale Balcı
Before I mention the desserts we had, I must say that everything we ate was absolutely delicious, very fresh and spiced just right! In fact, we did order seconds of some of the dishes! My nephew Arman is a typical teenager and a finicky eater, but he too absolutely loved a lot of the dishes we thought he wouldn't event taste!

Desserts are also prepared fresh daily by Jale and her team and we opted to try the Banana Meringue topped with plums while Arman had a cupcake!

We had a lovely afternoon at Jale's Lokanta Farina and made sure to pick up some homemade jam (I selected figs) on our way home. She also prepares all sorts of cookies, homemade lemonade and of course cupcakes and muffins which you can also take home! 

As you can see from the looks on our faces ... Meltem, Müjgan, Arman and I were totally satisfied and happy after the delectable meal we had!

Müjgan, me, Arman and Meltem (left to right)
I definitely plan on stepping out of my "comfort zone" more often and visit Lokanta Farina in the coming weeks and I recommend it to everyone who lives in Istanbul for a little getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life to enjoy the fresh air, verdant surroundings and excellent food!

Bon Appétit... Afiyet Olsun... and give my regards to Jale too!

Stay well,

Note: Lokanta Farina is open daily from 9:30am to midnight on weekdays and until 1:00am on weekends. Also, "theme" evenings on planned on a weekly basis (follow Lokanta Farina on tweeter or instagram for details). Tel: (0212) 801 0 777; - website only available in Turkish). Lokanta Farina also offers catering services for your social gatherings.