“D’oh!” we said with a wince when we spotted the Ferrari parked in front of Fish, the restaurant we were heading to for dinner. It may have been the lucky day for the valet parkers who crowded around snapping pictures with their cell phones, but for us it meant certain financial doom. “D’oh!” we thought to ourselves as we imagined a month’s earnings splashed out to eat a fish among the fabulous of Bebek.
But our mood quickly changed as we made our way past the valet marked “Lucca,” the chic restaurant across the street that was the Ferrari driver’s actual destination, and up the stairs to the simple but stylish Fish. Inside, there was no burly security there to stop us from touching the scaly metal walls, so we gave them a feel as if petting a giant goldfish swimming down to the bar. Upstairs on the terrace, old style filament bulbs and blue awnings are all that adorn the comfortable, quiet dining space. While the Ferrari-driving types were busy seeing and being seen across the street at Lucca, everyone on the terrace at Fish seemed focused on the food in front of them.
The founders of Fish – the people behind some of the more glam spots around town – are no strangers to the high life. But if their other ventures, the ritzy 360 and Suada, express a Crockett and Tubbs aesthetic, then Fish is channeling Colombo – cool, smart and to the point. Stripped down of the glitz, Fish wins with the food, course after course, the meze in particular
Our meal at Fish began with fresh salty rolls and flatbreads served alongside a sort of tarama-infused butter and a tiny marble mortar that held a single roasted clove of garlic sitting in a bath of olive oil and pesto. The waiter produced an equally tiny pestle, mashed the garlic and left us to it.
The meze selection seemed designed to please a range of Istanbul diners. For the finicky meyhane stalwart there was a wedge of white cheese with melon to go with a duble raki and an excellent fava puree. For the slightly more adventurous, Fish offered interesting spins on meze classics such as a whole artichoke stuffed with rice and mussels served alongside a butter sauce for dipping the leaves. And for those at the table who have seen and eaten it all, there is a world-class fresh catch carpaccio, and roasted kumquat with caramelized onions. We indulged in all of these along with excellent stuffed squash blossoms.
After several skewers of fat, tender octopus legs and a plate of squid stuffed with smoky eggplant puree, there was no tempting us into one of the lovely fresh catches we’d planned to eat that night. The waiter brought over a beast of a turbot and two beautiful sea bass, but in the end, we agreed on a chocolate soufflé and apple baklava.
“Next time,” we promised the waiter and ourselves, but in the three times we’ve eaten at Fish we’ve never managed to save room for fish. Someone at the table suggested they rename the restaurant “Meze,” but we’re sure that the fish are equally stunning. When the bill came – Ay caramba! only $60 per person – we decided we’d definitely be giving Fish another try very soon.
(photo courtesy of Fish)