Il Cortile e Aila: Italian cuisine has great local interpreters. With excellent results
Istanbul is a lively and cosmopolitan city, a bridge between East and West, a place of clashes and cultural and, of course, gastronomic encounters as contaminations of various kinds have passed and are passing along the Bosphorus Strait. In a city, the most populous in Europe, which has changed a lot in recent years, but which has always cultivated a taste for hospitality (just think that the mythical Pera Palace hotel was built specifically for travelers who arrived in Istanbul with the Orient-Express train, and is still today an indisputable icon of classic and timeless elegance), it is precisely the catering of hotels that often offers good sensations. This is the case, for example, of the Il Cortile restaurant housed in the delightful Ecole St. Pierre boutique hotel, a stone’s throw from the Galata Tower, on the European side of the city. If the hotel is a gem created in the building that was once the seat of a French school, the restaurant has instead taken the place of the ancient seat of the church choir, and is now one of the places where you can observe, comfortably seated at a table, a section of the ancient walls that encircled the tower, built by the Genoese in 1300. A place, Il Cortile, which in a very short time became “the place to be” for Istanbul well, which for months now has crowded the two hundred seats in layout between internal room and patio. The 45-year-old chef Nihat Sancar, with experience also abroad and in Italian kitchens, has been able to create a menu of common sense, with classics from the Bel Paese, including regional ones, ranging from eggplant Parmigiana to Risotto with mushrooms, from Spaghetti alla carbonara to with Gnocchi with Parmigiano Reggiano and pizza. And you can even find a mini menu of Ligurian dishes, which pay homage to the Genoese past of the neighborhood and allow for an at least original culinary digression, between Pansoti with walnuts and Tripe alla Genovese. Do not miss one of the excellent cocktails of the bar, such as the refreshing La breeze in the courtyard, with gin, limoncello and basil, although in these days the opening of I Guru-All day joy, a lounge bar / café extension of the hotel dedicated to cocktails and with a more agile gastronomic proposal. For those who want to stay anchored to the traditions of Anatolian cuisine for a dinner, an excellent solution is to head to the Aila restaurant of the Fairmont Quasar, in the Şişli district, one of the most chic and elegant in Istanbul. The executive chef of the hotel is the experienced Ercan Yamanturk, but since December 2021 the management of the main hall has passed into the hands of the 28-year-old Kemal Can Yurttaş, who in recent years has shown himself as the protagonist of a Turkish cuisine television series and expert in regional cuisine. Thus, Aila’s menu today translates into an exciting ride into local flavors that sweep across the country’s remote corners. From Adana’s spicy kebab to Nazuktan, aubergine reinvented with clotted cream, salty yoghurt, saffron, sumac molasses, rose and parsley oil. And you can also taste the Bosnian Jerky, for a Balkan journey through smoked meats accompanied by the acidity of the Urfa pomegranate balanced in the dish by honey, a milk cream and a pistachio purée. A journey of taste that goes to the coasts of the Black Sea and then returns to the Mediterranean, which experiences the classic mezze, the multiple appetizers to be shared at the table, but also the “ocakbaşi”, the traditional Turkish barbecue for grilling meats, with preparations that are often finished directly at the table in front of the customer. Finally, it is worth spending a few minutes of time, before the meal, to visit the spice room: a real Spicy Market like the one found in the lively Sultanahmet district, but transported to an elegant and quiet dining room. inn. And in this case the customer can ask for variations on the dishes prepared by Kemal, choosing to use their favorite spices. During the summer season, the Aila room has opened its doors to the internal courtyard of the building that houses the Fairmont, for an open-air gastronomic experience and the accompaniment of a Turkish pop music deejay during the weekend.