The name for MSA’s Restaurant is no coincidence. Instead of fashionable ambiguity describing the place's conceptual secrets, one comes across the “still in training” statement on several occasions. However, the place, a training field for culinary students who aspire to create and develop other people’s taste palates, is already much more than just a work in progress.
İstanbul’s Culinary Arts Academy (Mutfak Sanatlar Akademisi, or MSA) has been one of the most important culinary institutions of the city for over a decade, shaping local tastes and training the next generation of gastronomy professionals at a level comparable to international standards. MSA’s previous restaurant did not keep up with the school’s expansion, eventually giving up its space to demonstration facilities used for classes. Even after the closing of the first space, however, the idea of running a restaurant as crucial to gaining a full understanding of gastronomy remained a subject of inhouse conversations. The perfect opportunity to open the restaurant arrived when MSA took over available space at Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Emirgan. At the end of the summer, MSA established a new restaurant on the grounds of the previous tenants, Istanbul's legendary müzedechanga, incorporating elements of its existing decor.
Although the previous restaurant’s legend lives on at the property, MSA’s Restaurant does not seem to be affected by it. Rightly so, since its concept has nothing to do with filling its predecessor’s large shoes. “You are at a class,” says the paper placemat on the table, as if trying to prepare its guests for the worst that could possibly happen during the dining service. There is no need to worry, though, as the staff members are not beginner culinary students, and their work is overseen by experienced professionals.
Working at MSA’s Restaurant creates the opportunity for chefs-in-training to take a look at one aspect of the restaurant business that is normally taken care of by someone else: service at the front of the house. Guests are expected to go easy on shortcomings they might notice during the service; luckily, there are not so many since the overall enthusiasm for learning a new skill amongst the workers is easily noticeable.
MSA’s Restaurant is definitely worth a visit, whether you are making your way around the museum or intending to dine here without any art viewing plans on the agenda. The bar section is overseen by future mixologists and there are several signature drinks on offer. The menu takes into consideration its guests’ time preferences, offering a wide range of foods, from quick bites to a full course meal, which you can enjoy against a Bosphorus view. A wide variety of current food trends are covered as well, from vegetarian, vegan, and raw (beetroot ravioli, sea bass, or salmon ceviche), Turkish fusion (soft-shell kokoreç taco), classy takes on street food (the infamous late night islak hamburger in a steamed bun), comfort food (noodle with veggies or in udon), to traditional menu must-haves (salmon salad or grilled meatballs). In case of initial confusion of where to start from on the menu, you might just want to go for one item in each category. For large parties, shared dishes for two to six people are also available. Leaving room for dessert is a must; whether you are in the mood for chocolate or fruity flavors, MSA’s Restaurant offers surprising combinations with each course.
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