British celebrity hangout in Istanbul
Istanbul has become one of the top destinations for international restaurants and culinary institutions to establish branches in. An excellent new example is the hip Asian restaurant Zuma London which has opened a branch in Radisson SAS Bosphorus Hotel
The celebrated high-end Asian restaurant Zuma London opened its doors in Istanbul on Feb. 1, following openings in Hong Kong and Dubai.
Reservations are still difficult to come by, almost impossible for the next few weeks – and forget about Friday and Saturday nights unless you have high-level connections! What is all the hype about this place? Madonna and the Beckhams are regular clients and Beyonce can be spotted sipping champagne at the London branch. But what about the concept and food in Istanbul? Would it suit the taste buds of the rather conservative and unadventurous crowd of the Istanbul elite? Well, there's only one way to answer that question: Try it out. But, be warned! Reservations are awfully hard to get in the evening and especially on weekends. So your best shot at enjoying a meal, from a gastronomic point of view, is on a Saturday around noontime, when you won't feel rushed or self-conscious about Jimmy Choo stilettos, and therefore can comfortably sink your teeth into the tender sushi…
The setting is elegant and organic, with a minimalist, Zen-like design that fits the atmosphere and breathtaking view of the Bosporus. The upstairs area is a relaxed bar and lounge, while the main dining room is downstairs and includes the chic, open Sushi Bar and Roberto Grill Bar. Upon arrival, the polished staff greet clients with a razor-sharp British accent: “Welcome to Zuma London!”
Pleasantly surprising, for Turkey, the well-trained waitresses have an extensive and impressive knowledge of the menu and the ingredients and sauces in each dish. An excellent starter is edamame – addictive boiled and salted soybeans served in the pod. Zuma London's seaweed salad, with its unique sauce, is unlike any seaweed salad in the Japanese restaurants this far east of London – or west of Japan for that matter! While sipping authentic neon green tea, the sweet sounds of Buddha Bar-style music and other eastern vibes contribute to a sensual dining experience.
Dishes are placed in the middle of the table to be shared, according to Zuma's motto: “Dishes are designed with the concept of sharing in mind.” A selection of the chef's choice of sashimi and sushi is a wise way to go. Presentation of the dishes is truly remarkable: Architecture of pure culinary bliss for the eyes. The sashimi is served in a large white washed bowl full of ice; raw pieces of sashimi are gracefully mounted on top of the ice. The sushi specials are also nicely presented in a creative, clear-cut plate. Although the fish is fresh and tender, “expectations reduce joy” and therefore it is not as succulent and melt-in-your-mouth as one would expect based on all the hype.
The best way to enjoy the meal: On an expense account! Prices are steep and depending on the selection of wine and sake, prices average YTL 180 per person. But it's absolutely worth saving up for, especially the unforgettable black cod. The marinated black cod wrapped in hoba leaf is the most talked about and most rewarding item on the menu. Not only is it presented superbly wrapped in a hoba leaf with a signature sauce on the side, the moist fish flakes easily with chopsticks and is heavenly with the sauce (YTL 69). For a side dish, the waitress suggested baby squash. Served shish kebab-style, the petite squashes look so attractive on the stick that one does not want to destroy the presentation by devouring them.
For elite vegetarians, Zuma London has a unique and creative list of vegetarian options, including a relatively extensive selection of vegetable maki sushi and seasonal main dishes.
Finally, for dessert, an innovative and rather apt way to complete a meal is with the green tea and banana cake. Another succulent shot is the Chocolate Surprise. Although the green tea ice cream makes an unusually satisfying dessert, nobody will blame you for finishing your meal with another round of the seaweed salad.