Back in 2017, there’s this Turkish man named Nusret Gökçe whose exaggerated way of preparing and seasoning meat has blown up into a worldwide Internet meme. Since then, he was nicknamed Salt Bae and his steakhouse Nusr-et has been expanding, not just across Istanbul, but also internationally to the likes of Dubai, London, Mykonos, Miami, Qatar, Riyadh, and more. All these locations come with a hefty price tag and the London one is especially infamous for even crazier extortionate prices. Nusr-et Istanbul is really the only “affordable” one and there’s even a joke that it would be cheaper to fly to Istanbul to visit the restaurant than it is to dine in London for that eye-watering £850 steak. As we took a city break to Istanbul, we were very curious to see for ourselves what the hype for Nusr-et restaurant is all about.
Nusr-et Salt Bae: A Worldwide Sensation
There are plenty of branches across Istanbul, some are steakhouses, some as burger joints. We visited Nusr-Et Steakhouse Sandal Bedesteni, which is right by the Grand Bazaar in the Old City of Istanbul. Just to name a few locations, you can find them at Galata, Galataport, Besiktas, etc.
Walking in, we’re immediately greeted by loud music and giant posters of Salt Bae. The restaurant is housed in a bazaar building, dominating the centre of the ground floor and the mezzanine. It’s not fancy per se (at least for this branch) but there is a pretentiousness in the air. Additionally, they also have a little shop in the bazaar building selling merchandise. By merchandise, I mean the Salt Bae meme has gone so viral that Nusr-et Istanbul is selling sea salt tins with his face printed on them. It is possibly one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. I suppose some may find it as a fun little souvenir but, really, it’s just Maldon sea salt.
We didn’t have a booking but the wait for walk-in was only about 15-20 minutes so we decided to wait it out. Though do mind that we were visiting during low season under unfavourable weather so I would anticipate that the queue would be longer if you’re visiting during summer.
The Food: What We Ordered
Smoked Beef (345 TLR)
To start, we ordered the smoked beef slices which come presented over a wooden board with rocket leaves, cherry tomatoes, and a sprinkle of cheese. While the presentation looked alright, there was really no taste in there whatsoever. I hate to write bad reviews but it tasted just like regular supermarket ham slices with no smokiness or any real flavours. Even for the rocket leaves and cherry tomatoes, there wasn’t any proper dressing to add to the dish. From a “luxury steakhouse”, I really wasn’t expecting to see a dish that could’ve been easily thrown together from cheap supermarket pre-packaged ingredients. Unfortunately, that’s what the dish was like. This starter couldn’t be more mundane to the palate and an unimpressive start to our meal. From here on, we could tell the meal wasn’t going to be one to remember.
300g New York Steak (595 TLR)
Steaks are a staple at Nusr-et, thanks to the little “show” they put on. Despite Istanbul being the more “affordable” restaurant, it’s honestly not so cheap. I wasn’t ready to splash out so went with the cheaper option on the menu, which is the New York Steak.
Upon serving, the waiter pointed at my camera and told me to make sure I take a video. I did, which you can find on my Instagram stories. Essentially, they slice up the steak for you and sprinkle salt flamboyantly “salt bae-style”. Unfortunately, spectacle aside, the taste was nowhere worth the hype. The steak was dry, tough, and severely under-seasoned. There was no real crust over the steak, no seasoning or buttery taste to it. Yes, salt was sprinkled over at serving, but you probably need a lot more to remotely start tasting something from that flavourless steak. Each table gets a little bowl of sea salt on the side and I kept reaching over the add extra pinches to my steak – I hardly ever touch condiments and seasonings at restaurant tables so that tells a lot about the lack of flavour here.
I’m not here to say it’s awful (it’s near there though) but your casual home-cooked steak, of a cheap steak cut from your local butcher, could honestly be better than this. By a glance, the price was okay for a supposedly “luxury steakhouse”. But with that quality, they’ll have to at least half the price, and probably even more, to justify it. It’s a big disappointing no from us.
Lokkum Burger (129 TLR)
The Lokkum Burger isn’t your typical beef patty burger, but a sliced steak burger topped with cheddar and caramelised onions. Once again, the meat was unfortunately dry and tasteless. With the burger, at least there’s cheese and caramelised onions to somewhat compensate for the flavours. In that sense, it’s better than the steak. But really, it’s an average, mediocre-at-best, burger. It comes with fries on the side which we only took two bites and didn’t touch anymore for the rest of our meal. They were greasy and lacked seasoning. The only positive is that the burger is actually cheap. But then we’ve definitely had better burgers in Istanbul at a cheaper price.
Onion Flower (85 TLR)
For a side dish, I went with the Onion Flower which I was excited to see on the menu. This is because I’ve always had this childhood memory of enjoying a ‘Blooming Onion’ from a steakhouse back home (unfortunately no longer open) and it’s not something I can regularly find in the UK. Essentially, it is a battered onion that’s deep-fried to golden crispiness. It’s called “flower” because the onion was sliced, but not to the bottom so that it “blooms” like a flower when deep-fried.
Anyway, the Onion Flower was pretty much the only dish that I somewhat enjoyed. It was generally crispy on the outside and, thank goodness, there were some pinches of seasoning in there. Although it was a little bit greasy to taste at times, I can be satisfied with the dish which I couldn’t say the same for any of the other dishes we had.
Restaurant Review Summary
Despite how much I love baklava ice cream sandwiches, I really couldn’t be bothered with ordering desserts at Nusr-et because the food was just so disappointing. Anything is just a waste of money at this point. If you fancy a good baklava ice cream sandwich, head to Hafiz Mustafa instead as it’s way cheaper, of bigger portion and no doubt tastier. The only dish I was somewhat satisfied with was the Onion Flower. For the rest of the dishes, I just want to forget I ever even laid eyes on. It honestly was a regrettable meal.
In terms of prices, whilst it’s cheaper than its other international counterparts, it’s seriously not that cheap. Considering that sort of food quality, it’s overpriced and very expensive by the city’s standards. Our bill equalled around £73 total for two (including drinks). Whilst I can understand that it’s a normal dinner bill in London, it’s the fact that it tasted like a meal that couldn’t be worth more than £20 that irritates us. Apart from the little “spectacle” they perform for serving each dish, service was practically non-existent. What’s worse is that you get this impression from the staff having a can’t-be-bothered attitude to you.
In conclusion, Nusr-et Istanbul had not lived up to any expectations. We are left completely baffled how the restaurant could justify the prices and hype around it. Dear readers, do me a favour and save your hard-earned money on something worthwhile instead of this. That’s all I’ve got to say.
Tel: +90 212 568 77 38