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Michelin Debuts in Istanbul: 53 Restaurants Have Been Recognized by the Michelin Guide

The Michelin Guide, one of the world's most respected restaurant rating systems, now includes restaurants located in Istanbul. 53 restaurants from the city were chosen to be included in the Michelin Guide, and the announcement was made during an event Friday night at the Zorlu Performing Arts Center. On the same day, Michelin Guide inspectors announced the establishments that had been awarded the Michelin Star for having "exceptional meals". The Michelin Guide awards stars to restaurants each year based on a number of factors, including the quality of the products used, the harmony of tastes, the mastery of culinary methods, the expression of the chef's persona in the restaurant, and the persistence of the menu's success.

Now, what is this “Michelin Guide”?

When brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin began their eponymous tire firm in Clermont-Ferrand, in central France in 1889 — at a time when there were fewer than 3,000 automobiles in the nation—they had a grand vision for the French motor industry. The Michelin brothers created a guide filled with useful information for travelers, such as maps, instructions on how to change a tire, where to fill up on gasoline, and wonderfully — for the traveler in search of respite from the adventures of the day — a listing of places to eat or take shelter for the night. It contained listings of hotels in Paris, restaurant lists broken down into sections, and sponsored advertising was no longer included in the guide. This helped motorists plan their trips, which in turn increased car sales and, subsequently, tire purchases.

For 20 years, all of that knowledge was provided without charge. Until Andre Michelin visited a tire factory and discovered his beloved guides were being used to support a workbench. This momentous event continues to be a cherished anecdote that we recount today. A brand-new Michelin Guide was introduced in 1920 and cost seven francs, following the tenet that "man only fully respects what he pays for."

Observing the restaurant portion of the guide's increasing impact, the Michelin brothers also assembled a group of mystery diners, or restaurant inspectors as they are more often known today, to visit and provide anonymous restaurant reviews.

The book started giving out stars for excellent eating restaurants in 1926, at first simply giving them one star. A hierarchy of zero, one, two, and three stars was adopted five years later, and the standards for the starred rankings were published in 1936.

What do the Michelin Guide’s stars mean?

The Michelin Guide uses a lengthy system of symbols, the most respected of which is its legendary MICHELIN Stars, to describe its restaurant ratings. These descriptions are two to three lines long. Based on five factors, restaurants can get zero to three stars for the quality of their food: the quality of the ingredients, the harmony of flavors, the mastery of techniques, the personality of the chef as expressed through their cuisine, and, just as importantly, consistency both across the entire menu and over time.

When awarding stars, restaurant inspectors do not consider the interior décor, table arrangement, or service quality; instead, the number of 'covers' it receives, symbolized by the fork and spoon symbol, is used.

Restaurants that use the best ingredients and regularly make meals of distinctive flavor to a high standard are given one Michelin Star. Two Michelin Stars are given when the chef's personality and skill are visible in the beautifully constructed meals; the food is elegant and creative. The greatest honor, three Michelin Stars, is granted to chefs who are at the top of their game and whose food has reached the level of art. Some of these chefs' dishes are destined to become classics.

“The presentation of the first selection of restaurants of the Michelin Guide Istanbul is a historic event both for our teams of inspectors and for this distinctive city," stated Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides. "With 53 restaurants, including 5 Star-rated restaurants, our selection illuminates the depth of this exceptional culinary scene, which is proud of its identity and traditions but equally open to the rest of the world. Istanbul has long been a well-known cultural and touristic destination; through the Michelin Guide, we wish to convey to both local and foreign gourmets that it is also a top gastronomic destination.”

Two MICHELIN Stars are used to highlight TURK Fatih Tutak:

TURK Fatih Tutak, located in Şişli on the European side, provides a chic and up-to-date setting for gourmets seeking creative reinterpretations of traditional Turkish cuisine by chef Fatih Tutak. The dishes are uncomplicated and precise, and, more significantly, they convey the chef's admiration of his own country and area through their frequent use of delicate sour and smokey undertones, which are his specialty. Similar to how dessert is served in the open kitchen, the legendary mantı, a homage to his mother, has become iconic.

Four restaurants have been recognized as one Michelin Star:

1) Araka

Araka offers a getaway from the bustle of the city and is situated in the Yeniköy area. Chef Zeynep Pınar Taşdemir's food, which focuses on seasonal vegetables and herbs, is very individualized and adventurous. The za'atar-seasoned pumpkin purée that is served with marinated veggies and heated olives in a spicy sauce is a great example of how the hot, sour, and spicy flavors work so well together and balance one another.

2) Mikla

The food of Mikla in the Beyoglu neighborhood revisits Anatolian traditions with a dash of creativity. The designs celebrate the variety and richness of Turkish vegetables, exploding with taste.

One meal that impressed the inspectors was the flash-boiled and grilled octopus with a gently sweet sauce, paired with purslane-pickled green bean salad and apple vinaigrette.

3) Nicole

Nicole offers a delicate cuisine where Middle Eastern ingredients coexist with traditional Turkish cuisines in the Beyoğlu area. Bodrum-born chef Serkan Aksoy pays close attention to the place of origin of his ingredients and keeps a network of moral regional suppliers. The Guide's teams were enthralled with his dolmas, which were served with smoked yogurt, delicate lamb, and a grape jus reduction.

4) Neolokal

Finally, Neolokal, which is housed in the Modern Art Museum, also offers a menu with the traditional Anatolian fare. Culinary innovation and risk-taking approaches produce meals like the spicy bulgur "cupcakes" with a superb chicken preparation, served with a creamy sauce, a seasoned chicken demi-glace, and topped with crispy potato, which is meant to serve as a constant link between tradition and contemporary.

Neolokal's green activities received the MICHELIN Green Star award.

The Michelin Guide announced a new award in 2020 called the “Michelin Green Star” with the intention of highlighting restaurants in its listings that are dedicated to more environmentally friendly cuisine.

This esteemed award was given to Neolokal in recognition of its ethical and environmentally beneficial efforts. Chef Maksut Aşkar and his young staff are especially devoted to preserving and promoting Turkish culinary history, some of which is endangered, in this restaurant, together with carefully chosen suppliers.

Bib Gourmand Category

10 restaurants are included in the "Bib Gourmand" category. Among the restaurants in the selection are Pandeli, Karaköy Lokantası, Alaf, Aheste, Tershane, Cretan, Calipso, Cuma, Simple Five Seas Cuisine, and Aman da Bravo.

The Michelin restaurant guide has built a solid reputation over the years and is regarded as reliable when making restaurant suggestions throughout the globe. It has developed into a major information source for restaurants. A Michelin star would thus be extremely important to the establishment and its customers. Receiving a Michelin star would encourage other restaurants in Istanbul to receive recognition as well as assist them to gain the respect they deserve.

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