PARDON OUR FRENCH , EAT IN STYLE

Interview: bi'nevi

A discussion about vegans, favourite dishes and the perfect meal.

How did you two meet?

We met eight years ago at a house party. We had instant chemistry…one of us is Pisces, the other a Cancer, maybe that cosmic connection had something to do with it? Who knows? Until we linked up and became partners in business we didn’t really hang out on a regular basis, but whenever we did see each other we would always get along famously. We must also credit our partners, who are good friends and worked together on Dinamo FM among other projects, for introducing us to one another. Our paths eventually converged when we decided to found bi nevi.

What inspired you to open up your own restaurant?

We both come from different sectors than food and beverage and after years in the private sector, we found ourselves trying to start up a small business that would lead us to establish and share our inspirations. It was during this time that we ran into each other and started talking about forming a partnership. Belkıs was finishing up a plant-based professional cooking training and posting healthy eating experiences @BEBinthekitch on Instagram with her sister and Ozge was working on a concept that would be serving plant-based options in a small spot in Karakoy. It wasn’t long before we realized that we saw the same thing on the horizon as one another and linked up.

Our kitchen is small and our storage capacity is limited, so we started drawing up a menu that would work within our parameters. Little by little we ended up with a tiny but mighty menu featuring nutrient-dense dishes that are filling and healthy at the same time. We also test and try out new dishes for private parties, catering events and our Sunday brunches, some of which we eventually add to our regular menu.

What exactly is vegan?

Vegan is a very wise philosophy and many adopt it as a lifestyle. Vegans do not eat, wear or use anything that directly or indirectly causes any animals to suffer.  Although we do our best to create our recipes in accordance with vegan principles, we prefer to refer to ourselves as whole-foods, plant-based because that philosophy is at the core of our kitchen.

How is İstanbul evolving from a vegan perspective?

Over the past year we’ve seen increasing awareness of the vegan diet and as a result, we’ve seen a few restaurants add vegan offerings. You can go to artisanal coffee shops and find vegan cookies, easily purchase an array of non-dairy milks at mainstream grocery stores, and even enjoy a vegan menu at Asitane (48 hours advance notice) or the newly opened, swanky, Alancha Beets, which is pricey but delightful. That being said, it’s still really difficult. When we go out to eat, we still usually have to make a meal out of salads and sides or let establishments know our dietary preferences in advance. That’s why it’s important that movements like “Meatless Monday”/“Etsiz Pazartesi” gain traction and doctors like Dr. Murat Kınıkoğlu recommend vegan diets for ultimate health and wellness.

Eating healthy and vegan has become pretty popular lately, would you call it a fad or is it here to stay?

We definitely think that it is here to stay because people are all becoming more mindful about nutrition and the environment with each passing day. Whatever the reason may be—our conscience or positive effects of leaning towards a plant-based diet due to health reasons are becoming palpable and frequently shared. Leading doctors and scholars are frequently writing books, articles and post on social media about it. On the other hand, the negative effects of living on a meat-based diet are unquestionable. Whichever way you look at it, as people become more aware interest will continue to rise. (https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=vegan)

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How important is it to spread the vegan philosophy to the masses and why?

Since 1985, every March 20th is Meatout—a grassroots dietary education campaign that encourages people to eat vegan. If you pledge to eat vegan for one day and three meals, you can visit events and sample free vegan choices in participating locations, attend various workshops to learn more about plant-based diets in addition to eating healthy for three meals. Three benefits of a plant-based diet are emphasized:It is simply good…for your health,for the environment and for the animals

Which dish would you call your favorite at Bi’ Nevi?

As we said, the menu is always changing. Right now Ozge’s really into bi nevi dip made with cashews, carrots, chia seeds, chipotle pepper and jalapenos. Belkis is really into our smoked carrot “lox” tartine and our truffle chevrè available on Sundays.

Could you share some quick tips to change our diet into a healthier one?

As one of our favorite writers Michael Pollan says, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Along with this we think that a low-fat, high-carb diet made up of mostly leafy greens, beans, colorful vegetables and in small quantities nuts and unprocessed oils is the most optimum way to nourish ourselves.Tips:

Refrain from animal products…especially milk and dairy. As women we need to make sure we have strong and healthy bones and contrary to what we are taught as children, milk does not do a body good. The more people drink milk and eat cheese, the higher the occurrence of osteoporosis and certain cancers.

An oldie but goodie, ask for dressing on the side!

Which seasonal produce should we be buying and cooking right now?

Artichokes! Steamed whole and dipped in a lemon-dill vinaigrette.

What are the best and worst parts of being vegan?

Knowing that you are a conscious consumer, and that your choices are good for your health, the animals and the planet. What worst part?

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What is your favorite go-to meal at home?

Ozge; cauliflower salad and beluga lentil salad.

Belkis: a good soup and salad.

Who inspires you in the food world?

Ozge: De Kas in Amsterdam is a greenhouse turned into a restaurant. Even though it is not vegan, let alone vegetarian it deeply inspires me. They grow their own herbs and vegetables in their own greenhouse and nursery and serve everything fresh. The presentation, the decoration and the concept is the embodiment of the place I always envisage…albeit the plant-based version J

Belkis: Café Gratitude and Gracias Madre’s owners, the Engelharts. The fact that they have Be Love Farm and source a substantial amount of their produce from their own farm is incredibly inspiring. Also, I feel my father is always with me when I am cooking. 

Which restaurants are you dying to try?

Belkis: Vedge in Philadelphia, Modern Love Omaha, The Spring in LA, and Dirt Candy in NYC.

Özge: Since my sister moved to Amsterdam a short while ago, I visit monthly, but whenever I tried to go to Betty’s it was fully booked. So it is my latest obsession even though I am not sure how good it is.

What makes the perfect dinner? (the dishes, the setting and the mood)

Özge: Taste is first and foremost, but I believe in the energy of the table. It starts with the people you’re sharing the table with. Good company is essential. Warm decorations and lighting makes me enjoy the dinner even more.

Belkis: I love the motto: Simplicity is best. Good friends, fresh flowers, one fantastic dish and a libation to set the mood.

Which playlist would we find playing at Bi’ Nevi?

Recently: Ibeyi, Andy Shauf, Natalie Prass, Torres, new Sufjan Stevens, and Alabama Shakes.

Which Instagram accounts or blogs do you follow to get inspired?

Vegnews’ Facebook, plant food & wine, Oh She Glows, Dr. Andrew Weil and finally, it’s not a blog or instagram account, but The Vegetarian Flavor Bible is a physical book of endless inspiration.

What does the future hold for your restaurant and you?

A website, delivery, catering and hopefully one day in the not so distant future—a farm of our own! 

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Detox salad: Cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, parsley – to be split in small pieces with a kitchen grinder. Serve it with sunflower seeds, basil and olive oil.

Beluga Lentil Salad: Boiled beluga lentils, green onions, celery stalks and olive oil-lemon sauce with cumin.

Kinoa Salad: Boiled red and white kinoa, green onions, celery stalks, Argentinian radish, raw almonds, olive oil-lemon sauce with cumin.

Cauliflower Salad: Roasted cauliflowers, black and green olives, parsley, capers, red Mexican peppers, olive oil and lemon sauce.

Served with seasoned “Lavaş Cips”.

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