When people think of India, they think of vibrant colors, hot spices, exotic dances, unruly streets, and transcendental temples. Even though the culinary tradition of this country, which is unsurprisingly distinct and unique, dates way back in history, Indian cuisine has a newly-sprouting existence in Istanbul’s restaurant scene. Istanbul may not offer too many Indian restaurants but our list below certainly summarizes the best Indian cuisine in Istanbul.
The son of an Indian father and a Pakistani mother, Iram Rana is an Indian-cuisine aficionado with such great Turkish language skills that you could easily mistake him for a native. He is the owner of Musafir, one of Istanbul’s best Indian restaurants located right by Taksim Square. The menu at this casual eatery includes all-time favorite Indian dishes, like samosas, raitas, chicken tikka, butter chicken, lamb rogan josh, and more. They also have nearly 10 varieties of bread to satisfy all your naan cravings. Keep in mind that Musafir gets quite full for dinner, so plan ahead and make reservations before going.
Located by the stairs that connect Tunel to Sishane, Taj Mahal is one of Istanbul’s few Indian restaurants with a great location and good food. Prepared by the Pakistani chef Zia Mehmood, you’ll find all your favorite Indian dishes here, from the samosa to the pakora from the tikka masala to tarka dhal. The menu offers a wide selection of vegetarian and meat dishes, such as Kashmiri lamb chops (chops boiled in milk and then fried with spices), crowd-pleasing dahls, curries, and rice. If you’re a meat fan, we highly recommend that you try the Lamb Korma.
Looking over at an imposing view of the Haghia Sophia while eating excellent Indian food? Only possible at the Dubb, the five-storied Indian restaurant that boasts a lovely terrace over the Old City and a soothing garden below. Prepared by Head Chef Vinod Kumar Chouhan and his team, Dubb’s menu specializes in Northern Indian cuisine, and includes soups and salads, curry dishes (vegetarian as well as meat and chicken), a variety of Tandoori dishes, delicious naan breads, and desserts.
With a magnificent view of the city from the 9th floor of Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus, Dubb Indian offers traditional Indian delicacies and al fresco dining in the garden during the summer season. Located in the heart of Bosphorus, Dubb Indian Restaurant offers a casual atmosphere with delicious Indian cuisine. Vegetarians will appreciate the rich selection of non-meat dishes.
“Tandoori” is an authentic Indian restaurant, tucked away in a little side street of Akaretler Suleyman Seba Caddesi, the road leading from Besiktas’ Maritime Museum towards Macka. Hard to find, the visitor gets reimbursed by the original atmosphere of the 40-seater restaurant, comprising decorations using fabrics, lamps and cooking vessels and that leave, together with Bollywood music, no doubt of its identity.
The few staff, exclusively from India and Pakistan, speak both English and Turkish and are friendly and helpful, even cater for wishes that might not be found on the large menu, which contains classic Indian and Pakistani items such as Poppadoms with various sauces, an appetizer plate with Prawn and Chicken Pakoras (fried chicken cubes or prawns), onion bhajis, samosas and spring rolls as well as Aloo Tikki (mashed potatoeswith spices and herbs) for starters.
The restaurant itself is a long, odd space tucked in the bottom back of the Taksim Star Hotel. In the windowless room, fluorescent bulbs shed harsh light on a rather unlovely, white interior. But the food itself is rich with flavor, patiently prepared and reasonably priced. One bite of smoky baingan bharta and the eggplant, charred on an open flame until meltingly soft and mixed with the heat of chilies, cumin and ginger, will quickly carry you away to more exotic climes.