Istanbul's Best Ethnic Restaurants

Indian Food | © Lindsay Holmwood/Flickr
Indian Food | © Lindsay Holmwood/Flickr
Photo of Feride Yalav-Heckeroth
9 February 2017

Istanbul has amazing food, and with the richness of the Turkish cuisine, the city offers a plenitude of options. However, sometimes the mood does strike for some international flavors – a palatal vacation (so to speak). From Thailand to Azerbaijan, here are the best ethnic cuisine restaurants that serve up something different and delicious in Istanbul.


Restaurant, Indian
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Certainly one of Istanbul’s best Indian restaurants, Musafir is nothing to write home about from the outside, but once your food arrives, you will know why you are there. An endless loop of music videos from classic Bollywood movies plays on the TV inside, while the neighborhood’s mostly Arab population drops by for a hearty meal. Try the chicken tikka masala in a creamy and delicious sauce along with steamed basmati rice and fresh-out-of-the-oven naan bread. If you decide to sit outside, be forewarned that your food will be accompanied by the smell of hookah smoke from the café next door.

Pera Thai

Restaurant, Thai, $$$
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A well-acclaimed Thai restaurant, having received a ‘Thai Select’ award by the Royal Thai Government’s Ministry of Commerce, Pera Thai is the place to go for an authentic experience. Located in the historical Pera District, an area full of neoclassical façades, the restaurant blends a modern aesthetic with traditional touches. On the menu, you will find authentic dishes such as stir-fried chicken in curry paste with shrimp crackers; roasted duck in creamy red curry with green pepper; or deep-fried whole fish with garlic (among many other delicious options).


Restaurant, Turkish, $$$
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One of the newest additions to the city’s international food scene is Semeni, an Azerbaijani restaurant with a very youthful flair in terms of décor. Instead of a menu, the friendly owner comes to every table to explain the day’s array of home-cooked meals. You will not only find some dishes similar to Turkish cuisine such as the olive oil starter but also very different creations such as a köfte (meatballs) filled with dried plums.

Galata Evi

Restaurant, Russian, Georgian
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Formerly an old English jail during the 1920s, this particular venue behind the Galata Tower now serves as Galata Evi, one of the main representatives of Russian, Tatar, and Georgian cuisine. Open since 1999, the restaurant serves authentic creations composed of strictly seasonal ingredients, which means the menu changes frequently. The goulash (when available) and Georgian dumplings are two favorites. In the evenings after 8 pm, the live music on the second floor, usually Russian folk songs on the piano, gives Galata Evi a completely different vibe.

Ioki Sushi

Restaurant, Japanese, Sushi, Turkish, Peruvian
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There are plenty of sushi restaurants in Istanbul; however, Ioki Sushi stands out with its excellent variety of options inspired by the confluence of Japanese, Turkish, and Peruvian cuisine. The extensive list of maki, nigiri, tempura, and sashimi, as well as its modern décor with classic Japanese touches, make for an authentic experience. Ioki’s branch in Kandilli is located close to the Bosphorus shore, which means the terrace has a great view in the warmer months.

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