Turkey has always been a country at the top of my destination wish list. Between its history, the myriad of colors that grace its many different landscapes, and its delicious sounding cuisine, it’s easy to see why I’ve always been smitten with it. However, until last month I had never tried any of its cuisine. Sure, I’ve had Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food countless times, but individual countries loathe being grouped into one category, especially when it comes to food, and I definitely didn’t want to be guilty of doing that myself. While Pittsburgh isn’t lacking in the Middle Eastern restaurant department, it is in the individual cuisines of that region. Thankfully the opening of Istanbul-Sofra this past spring changed that.
In Turkish sofra means “table” so right away its exotic sounding name works (I’m a nerd when it comes to foreign languages). It’s located in the city’s Regent Square neighborhood, right on Forbes Avenue and less than a five minute drive from Squirrel Hill. Ironically enough, it occupies the space of the former Latin American restaurant Alma-Pan Latin Kitchen, which closed last year. While I was incredibly sad that it shuttered (since Pittsburgh is very much lacking in Latin restaurants), I was happy that at least another unique cuisine went in.
Although Istanbul Sofra does take reservations, we ended up going early on a Saturday night, getting there around 5:15 PM. While a bunch of the tables were marked as reserved, we were able to get one without issue. They do have a nice outdoor seating area for the warmer weather but I was just as content to dine indoors. It did take a while for someone to actually come over to our table to initially greet us, but once they did, service was quick and attentive the rest of the meal.
We decided to start by splitting an order of the Baba Ghanoush ($6) which is pureed eggplant that has been flavored with tahini, olive oil, garlic, dill, and yogurt. It came with pita and we asked for some more, which we were given.
For my entree I ordered the Adana Kebab ($13) which was seasoned lamb that had been charbroiled on skewers and came with rice, salad, grilled tomatoes and peppers and a special yogurt sauce. The meat was a trifle greasy but lamb often is. The yogurt paired with the meat was delicious though.
D went with the Iskender Kebab ($15), sliced Turkish lamb gyros served on pita bread, then topped with tomato sauce and yogurt and served with grilled peppers.
Since we were at a Turkish restaurant after all, we went with an order of the Baklava ($4) for dessert. The portion was perfect (four individual squares) and didn’t make one feel at all for daring to consume dessert.
And because I have always wanted to try it, I ordered a cup of Turkish tea ($1.50). And for a neat little lesson on it, here’s information from the restaurant’s website about Turkish tea:
Turkish tea is full-flavored and too strong to be served in large cups, thus it’s always offered in little tulip-shaped glasses which you have to hold by the rim to save your fingertips from burning because it’s served boiling hot. You can add sugar in it but no milk, and you can have it either lighter (weaker) or darker (stronger) depending on your taste because Turkish tea is made by pouring some very strong tea into the glass, then cutting it with water to the desired strength.
D decided to try out Turkish coffee ($2.50). It starts off roasted and then finely ground coffee beans are boiled in a pot (cezve), usually with sugar, and served in a cup.
Dining at a place like Istanbul-Sofra really makes you feel as if you have been transported to Turkey. It was a real treat dining there and I would definitely return again in the future. The natural lighting was also terrific and allowed me to take some great photos.
Note: Istanbul Sofra is byob!
7600 Forbes Avenue Pittsburgh