Istanbul, the bustling metropolis known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and diverse culture, has recently earned culinary acclaim by adding two new Michelin-starred restaurants. In this article, I will introduce you to the two restaurants that earned the Michelin star and their impact on the city’s culinary landscape.
My Personal Thoughts about Michelin Star Restaurants
Picture this: elegant settings, a symphony of flavors, and an ambiance that whispers tales of culinary mastery. These new Michelin-starred establishments in Istanbul promise not just a meal but a journey for your taste buds. It’s a celebration of creativity, a showcase of the finest ingredients, and an invitation to savor every moment.
I’m uncertain about the specific criteria Michelin inspectors consider when awarding stars to restaurants. However, I’ve noticed that in Istanbul, all Michelin-starred establishments are situated in upscale neighborhoods or within 5-star hotels. In contrast, when chatting with friends, I discovered that in Germany, the Michelin scene is diverse, with star-rated restaurants even found in small villages.
This difference might be linked to purchasing power. In Germany, residents in villages or nearby areas often have the financial means to dine at Michelin-starred restaurants. On the other hand, in Istanbul, the potential customers may be less interested to go on an adventure into low-income neighborhoods just for dining, and tourists may not feel entirely secure doing so either.
It’s a bit unfortunate in my opinion, as I believe Istanbul, particularly in its street food offerings, boasts some of the world’s best street foods. Despite this, the Michelin recognition seems concentrated in more upscale areas, potentially limiting the accessibility and diversity of the culinary experiences the city has to offer.
That said, it’s obvious that Michelin-starred restaurants excel in offering exceptional meals. So, if you’re keen on experiencing the quality associated with a Michelin star, I would completely understand.
Editors Comment:I’m not a big fan of the Michelin Star system because, once a restaurant earns a star, it tends to attract a large crowd, and I believe this often leads to a decline in quality. Additionally, it’s inevitable that prices tend to significantly rise after a restaurant earns a Michelin star.
Michelin Star in Istanbul
Whether you’re a seasoned food enthusiast or someone newly exploring the pleasures of exquisite dining, Istanbul’s latest Michelin-starred restaurants are eager to greet you warmly. And if the price tag seems a bit steep, do not be afraid. Istanbul boasts a large number of restaurants that deliver a taste experience equivalent to Michelin-starred establishments but at a much more affordable cost.
The city’s diverse food scene ensures that everyone, regardless of budget, can savor the rich and delightful offerings Istanbul has to offer. So, dive into the culinary wonders of this enchanting city without worrying about breaking the bank.
New Starred Establishments in Istanbul with Michelin Star
Start on a culinary journey as Istanbul proudly welcomes two new Michelin-starred restaurants, elevating the city’s status on the global gastronomic stage. Let’s dive into the distinct features of these culinary havens that promise an unforgettable dining experience.
1 Michelin Star
Nestled within a charming residential villa from the 1960s, Arkestra is not your typical restaurant-bar—it’s a vibrant space where food, music, and ambiance converge to create moments of warmth and togetherness. At the core of Arkestra is the Restaurant, a splendid dining room exuding a lively atmosphere and an easygoing sense of luxury.
Chef Cenk Debensason leads the charge in the open kitchen, blending modern European cuisine with global influences. The menu showcases seasonally-inspired dishes crafted with passion and creativity. From the artful details on the wood wall paneling to the captivating Art Deco chandeliers, every element is carefully designed to complement the plates of culinary delight.
The Listening Room
For those who appreciate a breath of fresh air with their dining experience, the Restaurant seamlessly opens up to a secluded courtyard—an ideal spot for al fresco dining when the weather beckons.
Ascend the stairs, and you’ll discover the Listening Room—a cozy space perfect for pre-dinner aperitifs or late-night cocktails and snacks. With palm tree feature walls, lounge seating, low cocktail tables, and ambient lighting, the scene is set. A wall adorned with vinyl records confirms that here, you’re in for a musical treat. The Listening Room hosts a variety of weekly events, featuring selectors who curate music from Arkestra’s collection or bring their own. It’s a haven for those who appreciate good tunes in a laid-back setting.
Masterchef Cenk Debensason
Cenk Debensason, the co-founder and culinary maestro behind Arkestra, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management from the renowned Institute Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France. His culinary journey spans across the globe, where he honed his skills in some of the finest kitchens. Cenk’s culinary adventure took a unique turn when he initiated the pop-up dinner series, “The Cartoonist,” in Los Angeles.
In 2016, he returned to his hometown, Istanbul, after gaining a wealth of experience. Over the next five years, he worked as a freelance food and beverage consultant, showcasing his expertise. In 2021, alongside his partner Debora Ipekel, Cenk launched Ritmo Zeytino, a successful pop-up dinner series in Bodrum.
Fueled by an entrepreneurial spirit and his exceptional culinary talent, Debensason joined Arkestra in 2022. He brought a wealth of experience and a passion for creating extraordinary dining experiences. One year later he already received the Michelin Star.
Sankai by Nagaya
1 Michelin Star
Let me share more about Sankai by Nagaya—an establishment with a story that I am personally acquainted with. The Nagaya legacy is rooted in the expertise of Chef Yoshizumi Nagaya, who already boasts a successful restaurant in Düsseldorf. During my student days in Germany, I had the opportunity to dine at Nagaya. I must say, the culinary experience was extraordinary. I vividly recall a dessert with a strawberry crust that left a lasting impression.
Thus, when I learned that Yoshizumi Nagaya had opened another restaurant in Istanbul, my eagerness to try it was undeniable. Situated in the Stay Hotel in Bebek, Sankai by Nagaya is an intimate 24-seat omakase restaurant. A culinary gem born from the collaborative genius of Chef Yoshizumi Nagaya, renowned for his three Michelin stars.
Designed by Geo-ID and partly owned by the globally acclaimed architect Mahmut Anlar, Sankai extends a heartfelt welcome to its patrons. Immersing them in a sophisticated Japanese home-like atmosphere. This unique blend of culinary excellence and thoughtful design makes Sankai a place where every guest is invited to savor not just the dishes but also the ambiance—a true culinary journey that transcends taste.
Complemented by the skills of Michelin Starred sushi specialist Chef Hiroko Shibata, Sankai serves as a portal to explore the intricacies of Japanese cuisine. Immerse oneself in the art of exquisite hospitality known as “omotenashi.” The restaurant promises a unique culinary voyage, blending the traditional Edo mae style sushi with the richness of Kaiseki cuisine.
Edomae sushi, originating from the Edo Bay (now Tokyo Bay), revolves around nigiri sushi crafted from fish caught in the local waters. Back in the day, with limited refrigeration and transportation options, this approach emphasized using fish readily available in the nearby seas. On the other hand, Kaiseki is an artistic expression encapsulating the finest Japanese values: harmony, balance, and craftsmanship. It unfolds through a traditional Japanese multi-course haute cuisine experience, skillfully prepared with fresh seasonal ingredients.
At Sankai, the confluence of Edomae sushi and Kaiseki cuisine promises a culinary adventure that transcends taste. Inviting guests to savor the essence of Japanese gastronomic artistry.
The Stay Hotel Bebek also boasts a breathtaking Bosphorus view, adding an extra layer of magic to your evening. If you like the Japanese cuisine, I recommend giving this place a try. It’s an experience that promises not only delectable dishes but also an unforgettable backdrop of the stunning Bosphorus.
Istanbul’s culinary landscape has reached new heights with the addition of two Michelin-starred restaurants. The city’s gastronomic scene now boasts an array of exquisite dining options, each promising a unique and memorable experience.
Whether you’re a seasoned food enthusiast or a casual diner, these culinary gems are sure to leave a lasting impression.
Michelin stars are awarded based on the quality of ingredients used, combination of flavors, creativity, value for money. Also the consistency of the food served and skill in preparation.
A Michelin star is a prestigious culinary accolade that signifies exceptional quality. It is also a testament to the restaurant’s commitment to providing an extraordinary dining experience.
The addition of new Michelin-starred restaurants enhances Istanbul’s reputation as a global culinary destination. It will be attracting food enthusiasts and elevating the overall standard of dining establishments. Allthough I also think it will increase the prices of these restaurants and it will get more crowded.
Yes, due to their popularity and limited seating, reservations are highly recommended for Michelin-starred restaurants. When Turk by Fatih Tutak initially earned its two Michelin stars, the restaurant experienced a surge in popularity, resulting in a six-month waiting list for reservations.
Michelin inspectors consider various factors, including the quality of ingredients, skillful preparation, creativity, ambiance, and overall dining experience when awarding stars to restaurants.