Seraf, Aman Da Bravo, Pandeli, although these three remarkable establishments divided into categories as Anatolian, modern and classical take on cuisine, they are united by a common thread; they shape their menus around the season, use the best seasonal products, apply the most appropriate cooking methods, and as a result, create magnificent dishes. The tables, the presentations, the flavors may vary, but they are united for their mastery and utmost flavors.
Oakwood is her choice of fuel for her kitchen. She takes the layers of flavor, simplicity and texture that oakwood brings and combines it with her dishes. Cooking over an open flame requires the utmost attention; listening, smelling, intervening at precise time, never taking your eye off the dishes even for a moment. Chef Özler hopes to teach new chefs the dying art of cooking over an open fire, the first form of cooking, and prove that this bond is as true today as it ever was. She skillfully applies old-fashioned cooking techniques in her restaurant.
The menu is shaped by exposing meat, fruits, and vegetables to the enchanting dance of flames. Every lamb dish, even the vegetables braised in olive oil are cooked over a wood fire. Seraf’s signature dishes such as stuffed onions, "imam bayıldı," (the imam overcame with delight), mantı (dumplings) served after being touched by fire, and the legendary “lahmacun.” Each dish emerges from the wood-fired oven more delicious than ever, captivating diners. Slow-cooked lamb shank is incredibly tender and flavorful when cooked slowly and smoothly over the wood fire. From flatbreads to village-style potatoes, most items on the menu take a detour to the oak wood oven on their way to the table. The unmistakable aroma of oak charcoal permeates the grilled meats, adding a whole new layer of flavor to the lamb chops. A mild oak wood aroma fills the dining room when the dishes are served.
Seraf carefully makes its winter preparations in-house. These include pickles, canned tomatoes, the red pepper sauces, sorts of jams to add flavor to the dishes during winter. For products they don't make themselves, craftsmen from across Türkiye make additions to Seraf's kitchen. Prepared in Gaziantep, sun-dried eggplants, peppers, and zucchinis, known locally as "kuruluklar," carry flavors of the sun to the dishes. Chef Sinem Özler brings both the fire and sun of Anatolia to her Istanbul table.
When it comes to vegetables, Chef İnanç Çelengil breaks the traditional home cooking methods and takes them to a whole new level. The wide range of ingredients at her disposal gives her the freedom to be creative. While the menu offers vegetables, meats, fish, and seafood, vegetables take center stage at Aman Da Bravo, and what a performance it is!
Chef İnanç Çelengil and her team prepare cauliflower, okra, and spinach roots using unconventional methods, resulting in unaccustomed flavors, textures, and combinations of ingredients. They combine oven-braised spinach roots in olive oil, fennel, Medlar pear, and mandarins to create a tantalizing harmony of flavors. Even out of season, cauliflower, roasted and served with seasoned ground meat and egg, remains a sought-after delicacy.
Okra gives way to an unconventional presentation: roasted or grilled rather than traditional stewing. Oven-dried crispy chickpeas contrast delightfully with the soft texture of hummus. Steak tartare and oven-baked kokoreç rightfully claim their places among the irresistible dishes. Various cooking techniques combine to transform the humble fig leaf into ice cream. The fig leaves are first blanched, then dried on the grill, then completely dried in the microwave and pulverized. Even the fig is surprised by this convention.
While the ingredients themselves constitute the heart of Turkish home cooking, Chef İnanç Çelengil reveals their hidden potential, leaving diners being amazed all over again. Aman Da Bravo's signature creations are a sight to behold and continue to delight the palates.
The menu at Pandeli includes such classics zeytinyağlılar; vegetables braised in olive oil, lamb specialties, döner kebab, and fish en papilotte, fish baked in parchment paper. Vegetables braised olive oil enjoy pride of place in Pandeli's menu. The traditional round stuffed vine leaf, made in the Greek style since the time of Pandeli Çobanoğlu, is a restaurant specialty not to be missed. Prepared with cinnamon, allspice, onions, black pepper, rice, pine nuts, dill, and parsley, the stuffed vine leaves are wrapped tightly and slowly cooked with onions, lemon, and generous amounts of olive oil. Zeytinyağlı dishes, be they winter celery with quince or summer okra and beans, are simmered over a low heat known as "candlelight" to preserve the flavors. The slower the olive oil dishes braise, the quicker the crispy delights such as puff pastry and squash blossoms are deep-fried without absorbing oil.
Once a common sight on every Istanbul dining table, classic fruit compotes, prepared with a refined blend of spices and simmered just to perfection to keep the fruit firm, are served chilled alongside rice pilaf, döner, and meat dishes to refresh the palate. Chef Bayram Karaçam roasts eggplant over oak charcoal, flour is sautéed with butter, and then combines it with aged kaşar cheese and other ingredients to create the immaculate eggplant dish known as “beğendi” (lit. he liked it). Spinach is blanched then placed in cold water and finely chopped to retain its vivid green color in spinach puree. The smoky flavor of roasted eggplant is the central element in all dishes apply. The oak wood flavor permeates all these dishes, imparting its singular fragrance. Döner kebab is also cooked with oak charcoal and then served atop the famous eggplant pastry. A Pandeli classic, sea bass en papilotte, maintains its place on the menu. The sea bass is wrapped in parchment paper accompanied by butter, tomatoes, and lemon, then grilled to perfection on oak wood grill, the flavors forming a delightful harmony that captivates diners.
Melt in the mouth lamb tandoori, lamb shank accompanied by rice pilaf cooked with butter, remind us just how important the well-prepared classic dishes are for a country's culinary heritage. Pandeli is committed to presenting and preserving the classics of Turkish and Istanbul cuisine in the best way possible.
Illustration image // Seraf // Lahmacun from the wood oven