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April 17, 2024updated Apr 18, 2024

Turk Fatih Tutak: Inside Istanbul’s Only Two-star Restaurant

Restaurant of the Week: Turkey’s most celebrated chef Fatih Tutak has created his genre of Turkish cuisine.

By Emma Al-Mousawi

As I sit down at the Chef’s Table at Turk in Istanbul’s fashionable Bomonti neighborhood, 38-year-old chef Fatih Tutak is taking a blow torch to what looks like a bush of fresh bay leaves in a large copper pot with an exquisitely marbled rack of dry aged lamb resting in the center. I breathe in the herbal aroma as a waiter whisks it off to a table of expectant diners. 

Perched at the moodily lit counter directly overlooking the illuminated kitchen, there’s theater everywhere. And who can blame Tutak for putting on a bit of a show? Turkish cuisine has long been overlooked, with the Michelin Guide only arriving in Istanbul in late 2022. Tutak, however, soon made up for lost time, with Turk becoming the first and only restaurant in Turkey to be awarded two Michelin stars, less than three years after opening in December 2019. 

Turk’s ten-course tasting menu is the chef’s creative homage to the rich diversity and flavors of the Turkish terroir – still relatively unknown outside of this vast nation. A nation whose cuisine draws influences from millennia of rising and falling empires and its unique position as a crossroads between East and West.

[See also: The Best Restaurants in Istanbul]


Chef Tutak
Chef Tutak is keen to show that there is so much more to Turkish cuisine than kebabs / ©İbrahim Özbunar

It was the joy of his mother’s home cooking that inspired Tutak to enroll in culinary school, however, the Istanbul native has spent most of his career outside Turkey. After an internship at Ritz-Carlton Cam in Istanbul under avant-garde French chef, Paul Pairet, he was lured by the Far East to kitchens in China and Singapore before an invite to Japan. Here, he trained under one of Tokyo’s finest chefs Seiji Yamamoto at three-Michelin-starred Nihonryori Ryugin. An un-refusable offer to join René Redzepi at Noma in Copenhagen followed and brought the chef to Europe, but he would soon be drawn east again. In 2015, he opened the critically acclaimed Bangkok restaurant, The Dining Room at The House on Sathorn.

Here, a booking for a private dinner for a Turkish guest changed everything. Tutak created a dish he called ‘From my Mom’, which was his version of the beloved Turkish dumpling, manti. The guests’ emotional response ignited a profound need in Tutak to further explore the food from his home country and look at it through a new lens.

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Returning to Istanbul in February 2019, ahead of Turk’s opening, Tutak immersed himself, delving into time-old recipes and journeying to discover the country’s best farmers, fishermen, spice dealers and artisan producers to source traditional ingredients from across the region, some of which had long fallen out of favor. For Tutak, his mission wasn’t to revive what had gone before, but to create something new, using modern techniques that he had spent his career honing. 

The chef has branded this new style of cookery ‘Turkish Cuisine 2.0’. “It is about connecting the culinary traditions and ancient produce of my country and interpreting them with a new perspective. It is the basis of everything we do at Turk,” he tells me. 

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fresh pasta being prepared at Turk
Chef Tutak preparing Manti / ©Eda Ildam

Diners can expect a microseasonal and storyful tasting menu of sweet, savory and smoky flavors that showcases exquisite produce from across Turkey, with every element carefully considered and nurtured.

“A dish must touch the heart,” says Tutak, and nothing is quite as heartwarming on a cold February evening in Istanbul as creamy chicken soup to start. It arrives in a Turkish teacup and is topped with crispy chicken skin and a tiny dash of yuzu (there are small nods to Tutak’s time in the Far East throughout his cooking).

No menu stays the same for any given time but there are some staples that thankfully never leave, such as the Mussel Dolma. “Mussels and beer is a typical street food in Istanbul. Here, we have elevated it with our own twist,” says Tutak. “It is prepared with beer mayonnaise, edible mussel shell, and dolma with anchovy dashi. We wrap the rice in vine leaves and place it between two edible mussel shells. The shells are made by cutting a sheet obtained from mussel pulp, and, for shaping, they are placed between real mussel shells while dehydrating them.” The result is a delightfully comforting dish of caramelized sweet and sour flavors. 

[See also: Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus: Experience Istanbul in Luxury]

Mussels dish
Mussels dolma / ©Eda Ildam

Another staple is Tutak’s famed manti  – fresh pasta wrapped around dry aged beef served alongside yogurt which the chef has smoked over coal with a dash of dried chili flakes. It is so delicious the next evening I go in search of a manti restaurant to try to recreate the experience. 

Turkish cuisine is often associated with meat but this isn’t an authentic reflection of the country’s rich and complex culinary repertoire, the chef tells me. “The menu at Turk is around 40% fish and seafood, 30% vegetable with only the remaining meat. The dish you have in front of you took almost one and half months of work,” he says, as I tuck into a sweet and salty cauliflower sphere topped with caviar. 

Fried turbot is a favorite of Istanbulites and Turk’s Black Sea turbot dish gives it a different spin by cooking it over coals to enhance the flavor, and dressing it in three harmonizing sauces. 

Dessert a trio of textured ice creams, including baked ice cream, ice cream skin and semolina halwa. A lovely light finish, despite the many components of the dish. 


The interiors at Turk / ©Ibrahim Ozbunar

The contemporary dining room is elegant and calm to contrast with the high energy and fire of the open kitchen.

Indeed the kitchen at Turk is part of every diner’s experience – with each guest invited in for a behind-the-scenes tour by Tutak or one of his chefs once they’ve finished eating. A real culinary lab, different rooms are filled with a myriad of spices, hand-crafted miso and marinades, pickles (nothing gets wasted) and dehydrating vegetables. Tutak and his team’s passion is infectious. It’s very hard not to leave Turk with a newfound love of Turkish food. 

Cumhuriyet Hacıahmet Silahşör Cad, Yeniyol Sk. No:2, 34440 Şişli/ Istanbul,

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