[Review] Banyan in Ortaköy

I am on a quest to discover the great non-Turkish food destinations of Istanbul. This is not a slight against Turkish food, which I do so love. But I am at max capacity. I need a change.

The view from our table

The view from our table

With your help, I’m working on my hit list. But first up, quite by chance, was Banyan, an East Asian gem overlooking the beautiful seafront at Ortaköy.

My partner in crime was Irena, a former classmate at Turkish school and sometime resident of Istanbul. We stumbled upon Banyan through happy accident. Craving Japanese food, we originally had our sights set on Zuma, a modern Japanese restaurant just along the seafront from Banyan. Alas, they don’t deign to keep the kitchen open until 3pm, so we were bitterly disappointed. Resigned to having a kebab for lunch instead, we were trudging back to Ortakoy’s main street with dashed hopes, when we spied the door to Banyan.

The restaurant itself is a delight of dark polished wood and breath-taking panoramic views of the Bosphorous. Admittedly, I’m not sure how genuine some of the “ethnic” decor is, but that’s not really the point here.

Perhaps because it was Bayram, we practically had the entire place to ourselves. Luckily, this was no indication of the quality of the food. For me, part of the pleasure of the restaurant experience is menu perusal. The titillation of so many possibilities, and the anticipation of just one of those becoming reality is part of the fun.

I wanted to eat pretty much everything on this menu, which traverses Malaysia to Japan, by way of Singapore, with a quick trip to India and Vietnam thrown in. From the Malaysian spareribs to the duck leg confit with plum sauce and jasmine rice, I longed for a tasting menu. But we managed, nonetheless.

Salmon and wasabi mash

Salmon and wasabi mash

Our meal kicked off with a heavenly plate of dim sum, translucent palest pink and practically quivering in their bamboo steamer. Perhaps I’ve been deprived, but I would say these were among the finest dim sum I have ever tried.

We followed this up with seared salmon steak with wasabi mash, and a green chicken curry. The tuna was perfectly cooked, just on the right side of raw, while the mash, buttery rich but with a spicy-sour undertow from the wasabi, was to die for. My curry was heavy on the chicken and the curry paste was perfectly balanced (clear your nasal passages hot, rather than blow your head off hot).

Thai green curry

Thai green curry

We didn’t have space – or budget – for dessert on this day, but I ogled one of the only other customers’ desserts, and I can safely say I’ll be leaving space on my next visit.

The only drawback from my perspective is the pricing. Alas, this is not the kind of food you can eat every day. But for an occasional treat, it’s not an impossible proposition.

My verdict? People of Istanbul, go to Banyan.


Banyan Restaurant, Mualim Naci Caddesi, Salhane Sokkak No:3


Tel: +90 (0) 212 259 90 60

Lunch for two: 139TL