Patient Profile: Meet Chef Umut Matkap of Lokanta
One of our favorite things about connecting with patients is learning about their passions and the exciting endeavors they’re working on in their lives. We recently had the pleasure of meeting Umut Matkap, chef and owner of a new rustic Turkish restaurant called Lokanta. No one on our team had ever tried authentic Turkish cuisine, so we asked him to cater our recent staff meeting and he gladly introduced us to his food! Here’s the amazing menu he had lined up for our lunch:
- Etli pide (Turkish flatbread with ground beef-lamb)
- Peynirli pide (Turkish flatbread with Feta-dill and parsley)
- Vegan pide (Turkish flatbread with House made vegan garlic-lemon ricotta)
- Pancar Tarator (dip w/ fresh & pickled beets, greek yogurt, labneh cheese, garlic, pistachio)
- Topik (garbanzo bean ball stuffed with caramelized onions, tahini, currants and pine nuts)
- Borulce salatasi (black eyed peas, arugula, Turkish pickles, roasted red peppers, walnuts, Sumac dressing)
- Cig kofte (bulgur patties seasoned with urfa peppers, mint and pomegranate. Served on leaf lettuce wraps)
- Fava pate (fava beans, fresh dill, almonds, charred garlic)
- Cop sis (grilled beef ribeye skewers marinated in yogurt, served w/ bulgur)
- Sekerpare (farina cookie dipped in homemade syrup, lemon zest, dried apricot compote, hazelnut sprinkle)
Everything was so delicious! Every dish was packed with flavor and felt incredibly light and refreshing, even after eating… a lot. And believe us when we say we all ate a lot!
Umut was also kind enough to answer a few questions via email to share more about himself and Lokanta. He had to overcome many challenges with both finding a location that would rent to him and opening during the pandemic. He persevered and set up shop at SE 26th and Clinton in late 2020.
Tell us where you are from and your background as a chef.
“I am from Antakya, Turkey where I learned to cook from my mom and grandma. Many people don’t know that I wasn’t always a chef. I studied Economics in university and was a banker for years, but could never stop thinking about cooking. I never smiled as much as when I was making food, so I left my job at 30 years old to go to culinary school. I was one of the oldest in my class. At 35 I started over and moved to the U.S. with my wife. I was really scared at times, wondering if I could ever have my own restaurant. At 40 years old I opened Lokanta. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I have my own restaurant, but I’m so grateful for everyone who has helped make my dream come true.”
What assumptions do you think are often made about Turkish food, and how did you go about creating your menu?
“Unfortunately, Turkish food is not represented well in Oregon and I believe we are the only one who makes authentic Turkish food. Most importantly there is something called Mediterranean Cuisine which does not exist. I was born in a mediterranean town and haven’t seen Falafel, shawarma, gyros ever in Turkey. Only one that I can think of would be hummus which is mostly served with clarified butter and pine nuts in Turkey. It’s a stereotype for most places in US. Turkish Cuisine is not a meat/poultry heavy Cuisine. It’s mostly vegan and vegetarian and with influences from Armenia, Syria, Greece, as well as Georgia, North India, and Mongolia.”
What is your favorite meal on your menu and why? We didn’t get to try any alcoholic beverages for obvious reasons, but are there any must-try beverages you are excited to serve?
“Topik is my favorite because it’s sweet and savory. Peeled garbanzo bean balls stuffed with caramelized onions, pine nuts and currants is an old Armenian recipe which pairs well with raki (aka lions milk). It’s distilled grapes with anis seeds. It a drink similar to a licorice taste drink that is 90 proof, 45% alcohol. Perfect for sipping while eating Turkish food. That’s the most traditional drink in Turkey.”
We are so happy to have you as part of the Five Pines family Umut, and hope all of Portland is soon able to experience your amazing cuisine!
Lokanta is located at 2601 SE Clinton Street in Portland. Menu items and more information can be found on the restaurant’s Instagram.