[EXPAT PROFILE] Creating Cihangir’s newest taste sensations

[EXPAT PROFILE] Creating Cihangir’s newest taste sensations

Maia Kobaidze (L) with her business partner Kay run May and Kay’s Kitchen in Cihangir. The cafeé boasts “the best dumplings” from Circassian, Georgian, Chinese, Italian and Russian recipes.

November 14, 2008, Friday/ 18:02:00/ KATHY HAMILTON
Nine years ago, when Maia Kobaidze came to Turkey for a vacation from her home in Tbilisi, Georgia, she discovered many similarities between Turks and Georgians and felt an immediate affinity for İstanbul.
Explaining her feelings, she said: “Like Turks, Georgians are also warm and like foreigners. The first time I came to Turkey I came with the intent of just visiting a friend who was living here at the time. But, I liked Turkey so much that I decided to stay and look for work.” She quickly found employment as an assistant to American expats James and On-Ke Wilde. The six years she spent working with them she describes as her best times in İstanbul. However, friends who tasted her cooking kept urging her to open her own restaurant. Eventually she did just that, and the result is one of Cihangir’s newest culinary gems.

Speaking about her new venture, Maia said: “I now run a café with my friend, Kay. To keep things simple, we decided to call it Maya and Kay’s Kitchen. I’m really happy with the customers who come to our restaurant. During the recent Georgian/Russian conflict many of our customers showed me much concern -- I did not expect this. It was so nice of them. We have no waiter, we have no cook; we do everything ourselves. We make the best dumplings -- from Circassian, Georgian, Chinese, Italian to Russian vareniki. Kay and I both love cooking, so it was natural to start our business.”

The dumplings are the dishes that have made them an instant hit. However, these are no ordinary dumplings. Each is distinctly different in taste, texture and appearance. Customers quickly find their own favorites from the ever-expanding list, often returning every week for more comfort food from their homelands.

Even though their assortment of dumplings from around the world features highly on the menu, Maya and Kay’s Kitchen is quickly gaining a reputation as the place to go for a wide variety of home-cooked food. The menu is constantly changing as they try out new dishes, much to their loyal clientele’s delight. Both Maia and Kay make regular trips abroad and they are constantly bringing back new culinary treats to create in the restaurant. In their continuing search for ingredients to perfect their menu, they now grow their own lemon grass, and they smoke the salmon for the smoked salmon tortellini. In addition, they make their own sauces, jams, jellies and breads.

The daily specials are not to be passed over lightly. Recent offerings have included falafels, tandori chicken salad and noodle-filled spring rolls with a spicy chili sauce for dipping. No alcohol is served at the restaurant, but their homemade blackcurrant juice and flavored lemonades wonderfully compliment any meal. Make sure, though, to leave room for their selection of rich desserts to top off your meal.

The care and love that Maia and Kay put into their food are reflected in every bite. As the menu expands and new dishes are perfected, there is even more reason to keep coming back. Starters cost YTL 2-7, entrees and salads are YTL 7-13 and their French press coffees are a steal at just YTL 4.

Maya & Kay’s Kitchen

Yeniyuva Sokak 20A, Cihangir, Beyoğlu

Phone: 0 (212) 249 06 79

Open daily 11 a.m.-11 p.m.