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Changa and Muzedechanga, Istanbul

Changa and Muzedechanga, Istanbul

In the Turkish capital's profusion of kebab stalls and shops selling powdery, pistachio-strewn Turkish delights, tourists may develop the impression that Turkish cuisine is dominated by hulks of meat and the sweet. This metropolis, however, is a center of haute cuisine — which is not only proof of Turkey's cultural dominance in the region, but Istanbul's firm identity as an sophisticated international city.

By John O’Ceallaigh

In the Turkish capital's profusion of kebab stalls and shops selling powdery, pistachio-strewn Turkish delights, tourists may develop the impression that Turkish cuisine is dominated by hulks of meat and the sweet. This metropolis, however, is a center of haute cuisine — which is not only proof of Turkey's cultural dominence in the region, but Istanbul's firm identity as an sophisticated international city.

Off Taksim Square in central Istanbul, near the gay club Tek Yon, Changa has remained at the forefront of the city’s culinary scene since its 1999 opening. The couple behind it, Tar?k Bayaz?t and Sava? Ertunç, took a bold step in redeveloping a four-storey Art Nouveau building to house their concept: a restaurant serving modern, inventive fusion food developed in partnership with celebrated Kiwi chef Peter Gordon. The late ‘90s were a time when Istanbul’s restaurants were largely traditional and uninventive but the men’s risk paid off – shortly afterwards it was voted one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. Today it’s still a fixture on any in-the-know local’s list of restaurant recommendations.

During my visit we explored a tasting menu with dishes such as roasted eggplant with a miso and tahini sauce, and juicy scallops wrapped in cured beef and hummus. Fusion food is often justly accused of looking good on the plate but muddling the palate, but combinations at Changa were accessible, interesting, enjoyable. We left happy. That said, I found the duo’s second restaurant Muzedechanga better. Opened in late 2005, the restaurant was developed by local interior design group Autoban and is a handsome, homely space lavished with wooden fixtures and with a definite Scandinavian feel, despite the gleaming Bosphorus being visible from its terrace.

We were presented with a succession of beautifully composed small plates that drew from Turkey’s culinary heritage: deep-friend zucchini flowers, stuffed with lor cheese and basil; dumplings stuffed with mushrooms and a goat's milk yogurt sauce, and a zesty mint salad served on the side. For dessert, we feasted on a tower of meringues served with summer fruit and wispy slivers of candy floss, torn apart like strands of wool. Fabulous.

The restaurant is located in the Sakip Sabanci museum,which is at the outskirts of the Istanbul's city center. If you do go for the meal, consider making time to see an exhibition as well. It should prove a satisfying cultural complement to the voyage of discovery you’ll undertake within the restaurant.

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