What to order at Salt Bae's restaurant
Author: Pat Nourse
Photography: Nusret Gökçe
4:20PM, Jan 17, 2017
We approach an expert on the ground in Turkey for the inside word on the Salt Bae phenomenon. Just how salty is that steak?
The man the English-speaking world knows as Salt Bae, as you may have learned looking at the internet this past week, has become a social media phenomenon based on not much more than a strong signature look and a deft way of throwing salt over meat. Turkish chef and restaurateur Nusret Gökçe runs a string of steakhouses with locations in Istanbul, Ankara, Bodrum, on the Datça Peninsula and in Dubai, and is a well-known figure on the Turkish food scene, but it was his post a week ago showing him slicing and seasoning a steak with loving finesse that catapulted him into being the sort of online phenomenon that receives millions of views and launches a thousand hashtags.
In the days since he went viral, acquiring the nickname Salt Bae (or "salt babe", if you will) along the way, Gökçe has been relatively quiet, going to ground while the internet explodes around him, frothing with speculation about everything from his marital status to his relationship with Tommy Hilfiger.
One key question seems to have been overlooked, however: is the steak as good as it looks?
To get the answers, we spoke to food writer Cemre Narin, Turkey's chair of voting in the World's 50 Best Restaurants, for the word on the ground.
First up, she says, there's more to the man than just a nice line in waistcoats, round sunglasses and a flamboyant way with social media. "Nusret has been an important figure in the rising steakhouse scene in Istanbul," says Narin. "He started out as an apprentice butcher at a young age, then quit his job in 2009 and travelled to Argentina for a few months to learn more about meat in farms, butcher shops and restaurants. Very brave for a guy who'd never left the country and didn't speak any foreign languages. A life-changing trip." The steakhouse he opened on his return, called Nusr-et - a play on "et" being Turkish for meat - quickly became a success.
Unsurprisingly, the thing to order at Nusr-et, Narin says, is the steak. "You want the lokum, the tender sirloin. Lokum is the local word for Turkish delight - here it means 'soft'."
And the seasoning? What of Gökçe's signature high sprinkle of salt flakes? Narin is circumspect: "The food is not particularly salty."
Nusr-et, Etiler, Nispetiye Caddesi 87, Beşiktaş, İstanbul, +90 212 358 30 22, nusr-et.com.tr