Thursday, June 16, 2016

BIJOU BRASSERIE ISTANBUL: "Pop-Up" on the Bosphorus...

June 16, 2016

As Bijou Brasserie was a "pop-up" restaurant, it closed as of the beginning of October, 2016.

Dear readers,

The word "pop-up", although not a new concept, has entered our vocabulary and lives in a major way in Istanbul in the past year. First, we started seeing "pop-up" or short-term retailers, food markets, etc. at some of the major shopping malls around the city... now, we have "pop-up" restaurants! As far as I can recall, the first one, which I haven't had a chance to visit yet opened at the beginning of May and now, the 2nd Bijou Brasserie opened at the super-posh, exclusive and expensive Les Ottomans Hotel conveniently located in Kuruçeşme on the Bosphorus shoreline. 
Bijou Brasserie
Bijou Brasserie opened on June 3rd and will more than likely stay open until the end of September (weather permitting) and then poof it's gone! It's an interesting concept actually! The venue is the newest brainchild of Kaya Demirer, a major player in the Turkish Restaurant Industry. His CV is quite long, but suffice to say that he owns Frankie Istanbul, a fine-dining restaurant & bar with live music on the terrace of the Sofa Hotel in trendy Nişantaşı and partner of Jamie's Italian located at the high-end Kanyon Shopping Mall in Levent.

So... this past Monday, normally the most hated day of the week (June 14), a couple of my dear friends and sister decided to get together for lunch to try it out.  It was a gorgeous day - sunny with a light breeze by the water and about 28 centigrade.

I purposely arrived earlier than the 1:00pm time we had set so that I could take pictures and peruse the menu. I entered Bijou from the exterior of the hotel by the swimming pool, but you can also go through the hotel lobby...
Bijou Brasserie @ Les Ottomans Hotel
Since it was such a picture-perfect day, all the photos you will see here are "raw" and didn't need to be refined with photoshop. 

In a few words, the decor and colors used are lovely, inviting and refined, but most importantly the seating is super comfortable!
Bijou Brasserie @ Les Ottomans Hotel 
After everyone came, we each ordered a different glass of wine instead of ordering a bottle (each one of us preferred a different 'color') and immersed ourselves in reviewing the selections on the menu, which is more than adequate and includes a nice selection of typical Turkish & International dishes, but some with a twist. Unfortunately, we were all on a diet, so we opted to select dishes that were lower in calories than what we would have normally chose... next time!

For example, my friend Burçak recommended we order the Cheese Platter (local and international - 36 TL), Charcuterie Platter (local and international meats - 49 TL) and Burrata (44 TL) and share... we didn't do that... So, Burçak just ordered the "Burrata with colorful tomatoes, asparagus, pine nuts with fresh basil and pesto sauce"
Burrata @ Bijou Brasserie
Not only was this dish a feast for the eyes, but it was also quite yummy and filling. There is a total of 5 dishes in the 'A Good Start' section (36-55 TL) and the "Prawn Tempura" (48 TL) caught my eye... next time!

Müjgan (who also happens to be Burçak's mom) and my sister Meltem were of the same mindset and wanted a salad, in fact they ordered the same dish... "Smoked salmon on a bed of baby lettuce with apricots, strawberries, cherry tomatoes & mint-passion fruit vinaigrette" (40 TL)
Smoked Salmon Salad @Bijou Brasserie
As you can see, it was a nice-sized portion, served on a lovely ceramic plate... it was also very delicious, but what really caught my interest was the different dressing and ingredients used which are not normally associated with a smoked salmon salad. There are a total of 6 salads on the menu and what caught my eye was the "Octopus & Potato" salad with green olives, mustard, honey and smoked paprika" (42 TL)... next time! 

Last, but not least... since my diet plan is mainly made up of a combo of protein and vegetables (minimal carbs), I ordered the "Beef Tenderloin with mustard wrap" (36 TL) listed under the 'Wood Fired' heading...
Beef Tenderloin Wrap @ Bijou Brasserie
My dish was "almost perfect"... the mistake I made is I didn't tell our server that I like my meat "medium" - unfortunately most Turks prefer their meat "well-done" which is a little too dry for me. Besides the meat, the wrap was stuffed with seasonal vegetables... and the side of salad was perfectly seasoned and the dressing just right! Also, loved, loved, loved the plate it was served on... There are 2 other wraps under this heading and they are "Chicken & Hummus" (28 TL) and "Baked Vegetables" (22 TL) wraps.

We didn't leave Bijou Brasserie until almost 5:00pm!!! Although we ate on the light side, it felt great being by the Bosphorus, the conversation was unending and the sitting so comfortable we didn't want to get up! 

Although we didn't have dessert, we did have Turkish coffee and espresso... once again the presentation (like all the dishes) was excellent! For those who are wondering... no we did not eat the little morsel of delectable brownie it was served with! Talk about willpower... next time!
Turkish Coffee @Bijou Brasserie
Espresso @ Bijou Brasserie
Just a few words on the desserts (all 25 TL) ... except for the classic "Fresh Summer Fruits" selection, the other 3 desserts are atypical... and what caught my eye was the "Creme Catalan" Profiterole with green tea ice cream, cardamom bitter chocolate"... next time!

I kept on saying "next time" for some of the dishes I did not select, but it will have to be a few "next times" otherwise I will gain all the weight I will have lost by the time I go again, hopefully in the next couple of weeks... Because, some of the other dishes that caught my eye were the "Tuna Confit" (32 TL) under the 'Sandwiches' heading (total of 3 sandwiches, the others are Prosciutto & Roastbeef)... the "Seafood Paello" (120 TL for 2) under the 'Pasta & Rice' heading (total of 5 dishes)... maybe even the classic "Lahmacun" (22 TL) although the "Veggies Lahmacun" prepared with diced vegetables & pomegranate vinaigrette (20 TL) sounds interesting too... although an "Italian-style Pide (or calzone) stuffed with prosciutto, mozzarella and pesto sauce" (44 TL) sounds appetizing, but there are also 2 typical Turkish-style "Pide" dishes under this heading too (32 TL, 38 TL)... choices... choices!!! . The last few dishes I've mentioned are listed under the heading 'Turkish Style'. 

But... the menu doesn't end here! You can have a Margarita (32 TL) or Prosciutto (42 TL) Pizza; Juicy Beef Burger (180 gr) with spicy fries, seasonal greens and homemade spicy mayo (48 TL)... and finely last but not least 'Main Dishes'  include "The Butcher's Daily selection of Beef or Lamb", Free Range Chicken or "The Catch of the Day" (68 TL - 75 TL).

Of course, you need something to wash all these delectable delights  down with! The wine selection is quite diverse with Turkish and International selections and wine by the glass starts at 27 TL, but the glass is 150 ml! Bottles start at around 125 TL - plus there is champagne by the glass too (55 TL)! Naturally, the cocktails available include a lot of summer favorites; beer lovers will be happy with the selections and teetotalers haven't been forgotten either.

So... definitely go to Bijou Brasserie this summer for lunch, cocktails or dinner... or a late Sunday Brunch. Between the view, decor, ambiance, excellent adept and friendly service, delicious food and moderate prices (for a venue of this caliber on the Bosphorus)... you definitely won't be disappointed! Bon appétit!

"The gang": Sis Meltem, me, dear friends Burçak and
Müjgan (left to right)@ Bijou Brasserie

Stay well,

Les Ottomans Hotel
Kuruçeşme, Istanbul
Tel: (0543) 323 96 96
Reservations are highly recommended - especially for dinner. 
Bijou Brasserie @ Les Ottomans Hotel