Çiya Sofrası digs deep into the food world. The kitchen aims to create memories of "forgotten dishes, lost tastes, and of wiped-off cultures". The impressive spread allows us today to discover these forgotten tastes from the "vast lands from Mesopotamia to Ottoman lands, from Balkans to Caucasia, from Asia to Arabia". A meal at Çiya Sofrası is not just about eating. It is being a part of reliving the memories that we never had.
Çiya Sofrası is located on the Asian side of Istanbul in the neighborhood of Kadıköy. Word is that Çiya is where Turkish foodies go and I believe it. Before we left for Turkey, a friend in Chicago who was born in and grew up there recommended us to go here. Locals sing praise for Çiya too.
Walk into the bustling (but not chaotic) restaurant and your senses are immediately greeted with what you have come for: food. On the left is the section with pots and pots of main dishes. The right section has a great selection of side items. Grab a table or seat first if you want. After that, walk back to the section where the pots of main dishes are and feast your eyes as you scan through the food items they have for the day. Select the items you would like and place your order with the employee behind the pots and waiting readily for anyone who is ready to place their orders. If you have any questions about the dishes, don't be afraid to ask. Many of the dishes are new to us and the employee is ever helpful in naming the dishes for us. English is spoken here. The employee hands you your written order and you can give it to your server. The dishes are brought to you shortly.
On the other side is a table of salads and side items. Grab a plate and take whatever and however much you would like, then weigh your plate. The employee behind the salad and side items counter hands you a note to be given to your server so he can add it to the bill later.
The meal is inspiringly delicious from the flavors within a dish and between other dishes. At each mouthful of the lamb with quince and stuffed lamb intestines, we can only look at each other and nod our heads while chewing our food. In between swallows, we shares words of praise for the food. Even a seemingly simple dish of braised spinach is worth ordering again.
The side items are as worthy for space in the stomach. The falafel and oblong-shaped pastry that looks like a samosa are wonderful accompaniments. Couscous, chopped flavored olives, bulgur-stuffed tomato, roasted eggplant, hummus, and baba ghanoush..... oh my.....
Our meal is memorable and a reflection of the food specialties of Turkey and the nearby lands. Çiya Sofrası is different and unique from the other Turkish restaurants we've been to and we only wish that every traveler to Turkey will go here to understand that food in this country is not only about kebaps. As we sit at the table at Çiya Sofrası, we become part of the forgotten tastes and lost memories that the restaurant is bringing back. At the same time, we imagine that we are eating what would have been served if a Turkish friend brought us home for his or her long lost grandmother's cooking.
Güneşli Bahçe Sokak No:43