There are only a few sushi restaurants in Istanbul that don’t follow a fast food mentality, and the newest among them is Sakura. The restaurant is the brainchild of chef İlker Zurnacı and manager Ziya Yılmaz, who previously worked at top-notch restaurants like Ioki and Kiss the Frog. Located a stone’s throw away from the Tarabya marina, Sakura immediately stands out from the crowd of fish restaurants in the neighborhood. Instead of attempting to cultivate an artificial Far Eastern vibe, Zurnacı and Yılmaz opted to keep the décor extremely simple. The menu, on the other hand, manages to find a middle ground between the simplicity of authentic sushi restaurants and the plethora of options found at their Americanized counterparts. The Ama Ebi tempuras we tasted came with a well-seasoned spicy mayo, but knowing that the true test of a sushi restaurant is its nigiri, we decided to sample the O’toro, Unagi and a few of the chef’s specials. Zurnacı sears the nigiri, a practice that would appall traditionalists but that brings the dish closer to the Turkish palate. In terms of rolls, you’ll find all the classics in addition to more creative efforts like the Berry Roll. The owners view the menu as a work in progress – a wise decision, if you ask us, given the seasonality of sushi. We give props to a restaurant that manages to make an ethnic cuisine its own through small tweaks to original recipes.
Haydar Aliyev Caddesi 198/A1