There is no horse so dead it cannot be beaten a bit harder, but you might have heard that it's hard to get authentic non-Turkish food in Istanbul. There are many reasons, we theorize, for this, ranging from Turks' unadventurous palates and propensity against emigration, to the city's lack of immigrants and foreign laborers.
But here's a quiz: In what neighborhood are you most likely to find edible Indian, Japanese, Arabic and Korean (reputedly Chinese too, but that's unverified)?
Surprisingly, "none of them" is not the correct answer. Nor is foreigner-friendly Cihangir (an international restaurant in Cihangir is almost certainly guaranteed to be awful and/or stupid expensive). Sultanahmet is a wasteland and should be avoided by people who eat. Aksaray could be reliable, if you want food produced by different kinds of Turks (Uighur, Uzbek etc), which you may (though the best reason to go to Aksaray, the Georgian Cafe Euro, recently closed. Super sad face)
The answer: concrete, sterile Talimhane, an area of undistinguished mid-priced boxy hotels favored by tour groups and business travellers, just off Taksim Square. Actually, it makes a great deal of sense, if you think about it.
Abandon the idea that people outside North America or Europe or UK crave diversity in their diet. Most folks prefer their köfte, vindaloo, mapu dofu and taboulleh when they travel, just like they have at home every damn day (certainly true for some North American/European/UK demographics as well). Sure, visitors will give köfte and kebab a whirl, but they prefer the familiar. Restaurants in Talimhane know this, and accordingly, several are serving authentic meals to groups of tourists, visiting business travellers and tiny expat communities. Turks aren't the primary market for non-Turkish food, so placing your restaurant in touristy Talimhane where no one actually lives isn't going hurt you that much.
We have always theorized this was true, and Imran, the charming owner of Musafir Indian restaurant in Talimhane confirmed it when we visited the other night with our grubby companions. An Indian (Pakistani?) from Manchester, Imran also confirmed another theory of ours: if you want to make the real thing, you have to import the right ingredients, probably in your suitcase. From one suitcase importer to another: respect.
Musafir serves delicious Indian meals -- all the usual dishes --at reasonable prices with friendly service, thus checking all key boxes. Most of the diners were Indians -- tourists, mostly, but some businesspeople and expats -- which we found encouraging. That a restaurant appeals to national tastes, rather than Turkish, bodes well. He asked our advice on the wine list, which we enthusiastically gave. We asked him why we never knew his place was so good (it's been there for ten years) and why he's not on Yemek Sepeti, the thing that works best in Turkey. He's working on both. Musafir receives the coveted Carpetblog stamp of approval, which should help him out a lot.
Musafir is a few blocks from Gaya Korean, which we have praised for its fresh and authentic ingredients (and pork!). There's also a Japanese restaurant nearby, of which one grubby companion approves, a Chinese place (which has gone unreviewed by our contemporaries as far as we know) and the cheap and cheerful Falafel House, which serves by far the best falafel in the city and is a longtime Carpetblog favorite.
It's unlikely that you're going to get "the best Indian/Korean/Japanese meal ever" at these joints. You will, however, get a no-nonsense* meal designed to please visitors and expats with lowered expectations.
*Speaking of nonsense, we visited the trendy new Indochine (rumored to be Vietnamese) on Kumbaraci, relatively early on Saturday night, only to be told that the empty restaurant could neither seat three people without a reservation nor allow them to eat in the bar. That's exactly the sort of nonsense we expect from Istanbul's trendy restaurants and why eating out here so frequently irks. Our expectations for getting a good Vietnamese meal there are even lower than they were when we entered, which is hard to imagine.