Japanese Cuisine is spreading throughout the world with a rapid pace especially in the form of fine dining. In London; Roka, Nobu and Zuma are some of the successful representations of this genre that I had a chance to experience.
Long after its official opening I’ve been informed about Zuma in Istanbul and it was only last week I had a chance to go there. Location is perfect. It has the breathtaking Bosphorus scenery of Ortakoy. The design and atmosphere is also classy. Upstairs area where the bar is located gives you a more trendy feel. I always adore the shape and the covers of sake bottles. It was nice to see that those bottles were the main design element that makes up the bar area. This area is also a convenient place to have a more informal and spontaneous visit if you are nearby. I had a martini from the bar and the barmen took his time to make it properly.
The downstairs is where the grill is located. Although Japanese cuisine is in many ways far different than Turkish Cuisine, the so called Robatayaki Cuisine have similarities with kebap especially in terms of the cooking procedure. The reason for that is, at the core of the procedure there lies the coal fired barbecue. The meat choices that are marinated according to this cuisine than grilled in this barbecue and the end result is unbelievably soft and tasty meat. I think anyone who is fond of “Ocakbasi” would love that taste.
A remark for international visitors coming to Turkey: The comparison of “Kebap-Ocakbasi” in this context is probably very different than your experiences with fast food varieties of Doner in your own country.To get an idea of what I mean, I recommend you to visit a reputable kebap-ocakbasi restaurant in Turkey as well.
Of course the similarities with kebap are only limited with grill. The Sashimi and Sushi selections, the dumplings and the Eel which we tried were some of the selection which makes this experience unique.
The service was excellent and the ttitude of the waiter who served us was really professional. He guided us through our selections informatively. He carefully watched the flow of our dining and his timing was near perfect for all the items we ordered.
Before coming to the food there is one thing I have to comment on. Probably it is the only thing I can tell negative about this experience. Since this is a highly regarded Japanese restaurant I was enthusiastic to have Sake with the food. Wine is also great complement but a few selections of Sake in the menu (a Daiginjo, Ginjo and Junmai option for instance) could be more than enough. We found out there were no options available as bottle. I am sure this is a kind of shortage for a short while but still having seen all those bottles as design elements upstairs I felt a bit disappointed.
Lets continue on with the food. We ordered Edamame as a starter. Then we got the California Roll to taste the sushi and upon recommendation of our waiter we tried the Maki with Eel. Apparently I found it extremely delicious. Then Tiger Prawn Tempura and Duck followed this festive. As the main course we ordered Chicken Skewers, Korean Spiced Lamp Chops and, Tenderloin Cut Beef. The grills were truly amazing.
We were at Zuma for a special occasion and I was the one who made the reservation. Therefore I had some sort of pressure on my shoulders. The moment I heard the comment “the lamp chop is probably the best I have eaten” I was totally relieved.
To tell the truth prices are a bit higher than even the London standards I got used to. But the overall value you get out of this experience somehow explains it. Everyone at our party seemed extremely satisfied with the experience. Zuma is definitely on my recommendations list. I hope we could see more places like this opening in Istanbul in the near future.