"A "purely" blissful experience! Walking into Saf (Pure) Restaurant in Tunel, Beyoglu Istanbul one feels an air of lightness and ease. Perhaps it's due to the cozy, welcoming atmosphere or that it is Istanbul's first organic, vegan bistro and wine and martini bar. Or it might also be the fact that the entire bistro is a smoke free environment. A combination of all these factors along with a charming staff makes this chic entity a must experience culinary treat for people seeking new tastes.
The cuisines at Saf are beyond doubt "global" - a mixture of Italian, Indian, Turkish, American, Asian cuisines mixed together with the freshest and organic ingredients in season for a notably creative menu. 80 percent of the menu is raw as Saf's Executive Chef Chad Sarno believes that cooking dishes below 48°C preserves their healthy, energy-giving enzymes. Many of the regulars are not actually vegan, raw eater or even vegetarian. Yet like many Turks they are open to trying new concepts. Healthy alternative eating styles like raw and vegan are becoming "trendy" and adapted by several Hollywood celebrities as well as millions of body and mind conscious consumers internationally.
Although the portions of dishes seem small at first, the content is highly nutritious and rich in taste with each bite. Diners are advised to take their time eating and enjoy every mouthful. Many ingredients for preparing raw and vegan dishes are difficult to find in Turkey and are imported (products such as Coconut Butter and Almond Ricotta) making it a truly unique and innovative dining and wining experience. Nevertheless prices are not what one would expect for vegetable plates (average small plate 12 YTL, main courses 20 YTL and desserts 14 YTL). Than again is it possible to combine organic, vegan and raw with an attractive presentation and taste at discounted prices? Probably not. For starters of Saf, the Dolma (10 YTL) and Cashew Hummus (12 YTL) are recommend, continuing with the delicious Cauliflower "Risotto" (cooked, no starch 19 YTL). Desserts are not only amazingly tasty but also "guilt free"- yes ladies you read it right! The sweets are fat free (coconut butter) and sugar free (Agave instead of sugar is used- a natural raw sweetener similar in texture to honey and suitable for diabetics). People come sometimes for merely sweets and drinks as well.
The martini bar is very chic yet simple. It is also Turkey's first bar where wines are organically produced without the use of pesticides. Saf's sommelier and mixologist, Joe McCanta, who recently moved from New York, is the creator of the Martini Bar menu. He states, "For our infused martinis and cocktails, local and the freshest organic ingredients available are used". The energy enhancing Immune Boost and Almond Pina Colada are great alternatives for non-alcoholic drinks.
Saf also offers culinary workshops on Sundays (when the restaurant is closed). The restaurant will open branches in Munich, London, Stockholm and Geneva as well as a spa and detox center in Akatlar, Istanbul.
As the ingredients are organic and mainly raw, one leaves the restaurant energetically satisfied as well as with a sense of curiosity about this fresh concept of mindful eating. The high percentage of returning customers goes to show that Istanbul might just be ready for fine dining with conscious awareness."