At Home in Meyhouse

Words by Elaine Wu

Photos by Paulette Phlipot

Words by Elaine Wu

At first glance, a physics degree or decades of experience in the tech world doesn’t sound like a recipe for making a successful restaurateur. Omer Artun and Koray Altinsoy, the owners of Turkish fine dining restaurant Meyhouse in Palo Alto, would disagree. It’s that love for both science and food that ushered Omer into his career as executive chef. As for Koray, his business acumen and corporate experience have made him the ideal guy to manage the day-to-day operations, overseeing a swanky dining room that invites diners to linger over sea bass and sips of Sauvignon Blanc. “There’s a clear division of responsibility and together it makes the whole thing work,” Omer explains.

A passionate home cook, Omer ran his own software company, but after hours he poured his energy into researching and experimenting in his kitchen. Then a friend suggested he try hosting a pop-up dinner. “I started doing them every two months and they became very popular and sold out within minutes,” the chef recalls. “That was my first foray into people actually paying for my food.”

In 2018, after 10 sold-out dinners, each one serving 18 themed courses to 150 guests, he partnered with his friend Koray to start a small restaurant. “I came from a tech background, but I love food as well,” declares Koray, who had helped his wife’s uncle open a restaurant in San Francisco. “Omer and I decided to start with a small space in Sunnyvale. It became super successful and within a few months we were profitable.”

When they opened their second Meyhouse location in August of 2023, however, they decided to dream big. The Palo Alto location is more stylish, sophisticated and contemporary than its Sunnyvale sister, while maintaining what Meyhouse is best known for: a warm, communal vibe. The Palo Alto restaurant includes an intimate back room for live jazz performances on Thursday nights and weekends.

With dishes ranging from gilt-head sea bream and salt-cured Atlantic bonito to grass-fed lamb and Turkish tartare made with tenderloin, Meyhouse’s interior mirrors its surf-and-turf menu. The restaurant pairs leafy plants, earthy wood accents and dark green upholstery with a display of fresh fish by the entrance that’s echoed in the striking artwork above the bar. Omer, a gifted ceramist, created the plates and bowls to evoke the ocean’s floor (he also made the dozens of pendant light shades and the dramatic tiles on the host stand).

The restaurant’s concept comes from the word “meyhane” which means “wine house” in their native Turkey. It’s a place where friends linger over small shareable plates of food and glasses of wine while enjoying good music and great conversation. It’s a concept that differs from the Turkish kabob houses more commonly found in the U.S. “The food, the decor, the music, the vibe, everything is part of the total experience,” asserts Koray.

Though this is a fine dining establishment, the last thing Omer and Koray want to serve is pretentious dishes. “We serve bold, clean flavors. This is ‘real’ food, meaning you can dip your bread into your dish, take big bites and really enjoy it,” Omer says proudly. “I wanted to do the best version of traditional dishes using the best ingredients and execution techniques possible. A lot of the dishes we serve here you can find in Turkey.”

Popular menu items include the steamed Turkmen dumplings, grilled octopus, olive oil-braised artichoke bottoms with poached shrimp, and kopoglu (a layered appetizer of eggplant, yogurt, peppers and garlicky tomato sauce). “All of the items on our menu have been carefully selected to represent different cooking styles and cuisines from different parts of Turkey,” Koray explains. “Everything is unique.”

It’s said that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. For Omer and Koray, that certainly seems true. “In the restaurant business, you get real results immediately: when you see the reactions on the faces of our customers while they’re tasting our food,” Koray says. “Omer and I love that. If you don’t, it’s hard to be successful.”

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