With traditional Turkish food and decor, Istanbul Sofra is one of those restaurants that instantly transports you to another time and place. The brightly colored woven tablecloths, mosaic lamps, and delicious mezze and lamb dishes took us back to our time in Turkey and made for a fun night out.
We recently dined here on a busy Saturday evening and were seated in a smaller back room. As the restaurant is BYOB we stuck to water and apple tea which was very sweet and reminded us of our rug shopping experiences in Turkey.
Go for the Mezze to Start
The appetizer menu is full of tempting options – because we couldn't decide on just one dish, we chose the five appetizer sampler with hummus, ezme, tabbouleh, eggplant spread, and piyaz.
Warm, soft pita bread slices were served with the appetizer sampler and were the perfect vehicle for the smooth and creamy hummus. The ezme salad was a spicy blend of fresh tomatoes, parsley, and peppers, while the tabbouleh was a fresh and light salad with bulgur wheat, parsley, tomatoes, onions, and a spritz of lemon juice.
The eggplant spread consisted of tender eggplant chunks, tomatoes, and garlic; the piyaz was a dip based on navy beans with a similar flavor profile. All of the appetizer dips were refreshing and we could have kept eating plate upon plate of that and made dinner out of them. They were all perfect for a hot summer evening.
Eggplant, Kebabs, and More
Kebabs dominate the main menu, including chicken, fish, and veggie options, but the main attraction is the variety of lamb dishes.
Given the emphasis on lamb, we knew we had to try some. We ordered the iskender kebab, which was thinly sliced lamb served on top of pita. The whole dish was covered in a fresh and tart tomato sauce with a yogurt sauce on the side. We appreciated that the dish was nice and saucy- excellent for those who want a bit more than just meat and rice.
For our other entree we tried something a bit more adventurous, the karniyarik. This dish was an entire eggplant stuffed with ground lamb, onions, garlic, spices, and tomatoes. I don't think we've ever had eggplant so creamy and rich! The counterpoints of spices and tomatoes brought the whole thing together in one delicious dish, but was rather small compared to the other massive portions we received.
The service was friendly and efficient, and we appreciated the attention to my tree nut allergy. Given how packed the restaurant was, it was even more impressive that the meal went off without a hitch.
If you're looking for something a little bit different, we highly recommend Istanbul Sofra. Authentic mezze, kebobs, apple tea, and decor bring a slice of Turkey to Pittsburgh!
Istanbul Sofra is located at 7600 Forbes Avenue in Regent Square.
For more Asian food, why not head over to Squirrel Hill for a meal? It is home to the largest concentrations of Asian cuisine in the city!
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