Out of the 14 countries I’ve visited around the world, my favourite was
Turkey. I stepped out of a bus in Istanbul at 4 am. Bewildered, my husband
and I stumbled around in the dark. A lone street vendor invited us to take a
seat on some wooden crates and offered us some aromatic apple tea. As
seasoned backpackers, we sipped skeptically at the tea, wondering if we would
wake up in an abattoir.
The man was simply being hospitable: he offered us drinks. This set the tone
for the rest of our visit. Strangers offered what they had, whether some
Turkish Delights or coffee, to welcome us to their mesmerizing country.
Turkish people have been welcoming visitors for centuries, and have perfected
the art of intertwining food and hospitality.
When I heard about a new Turkish restaurant in Edmonton, I was more than
eager to try out some authentic food and hospitality. Due to the
Oilers’ game on TV, we basically had the whole restaurant to ourselves.
Seating about 50, including a cozy room upstairs, the rich rust colored walls
and hard-wood floor, radiated intensity.
We sat near the open-air kitchen where the chef was placing pita bread into
the wood-fired oven. There were a few simple Turkish decorative touches, but
not enough to feel like a booth at Heritage days. The most unique of these
were the handmade tables imbedded with a boncuk—a magic stone from
Turkey, said to protect people from the evil eye.
The magic seemed to work on my daughter, who was surprisingly not disgruntled
by the absence of chocolate milk from the menu. Instead, she decided on
cherry juice ($2.50) shipped from Turkey, while my husband went with a more
domestic Pepsi ($2.00).
The menu was fairly simple, focusing on mezeler (appetizers), pideler
(Turkish pizzas), and izgaralar (Grilled meats). Since we had some experience
with Turkish food and enjoyed all of it, we decided on the Sultan Sofrasi, a
combination meal for two ($48.00). Hopefully it would feed two and a half: my
hungry daughter was complaining.
Shortly after we ordered, the first dish arrived at our table. The yaprak
sarma—grape leaves stuffed with rice, raisins, and pine nuts—was
very similar to the Greek version; however, the raisins and pine nuts gave
the stuffing a refreshing contrast. Completing the yaprak sarma was a
flavourful basil and garlic dipping sauce.
The next dish was humus. A large, heaping bowl of chick pea dip was
surrounded by pita bread. The humus, although good, faded in comparison to
the hot, fluffy pita brushed with a touch of yogurt that came fresh from the
wood oven. I had not tasted anything like it for a long time. We are lucky
that there was such a large amount on the plate; we were devouring pita as if
we hadn’t eaten for a week.
After stuffing ourselves on appetizers, we were grateful that there was a
short lull before our entrées arrived. Suddenly, an assortment of
grilled meats arrived at our table, accompanied by a platter of pilaf and
salad. My husband’s eyes widened at the four different meat dishes
arranged proudly on the platter—chicken kebabs, lamb kebabs, grilled
rack of lamb and grilled beef meatballs.
I was pleased to find that each choice of meat had a different combination
of herbs and spices to enhance the diversity of the platter. The favourites
at our table were the grilled beef meatballs speckled with chili flakes,
cumin and parsley, and the succulent rack of lamb broiled with rosemary and
oregano. My daughter enjoyed the tender morsels of chicken, slightly
blackened by the grill. (This is huge: she believes that most chicken should
be served in nugget style.
Much to my astonishment, partway through the meal my husband declared,
“This is great salad.” I thought I misheard him. Looking for the
hidden meat inside the greens, I realized that he was actually enjoying
something that contained chlorophyll. My husband’s praises were well
deserved; the mixed green salad was lightly tossed with a fabulous
honey-mustard, red wine vinaigrette.
The other vegetable dishes were received warmly at our table as well. The
veggie kebabs were a colorful assortment of zucchini, eggplant, and red and
green peppers. The vegetables were grilled just enough to bring out their
natural sweetness, but still remained firm in consistency. The bulgur pilaf
was a refreshing change from the usual steamed rice. By this time, we were so
full we couldn’t fully enjoy the starchy side dish. We have years of
experience with large meals and understand that it is usually the
carbohydrates that hinder the maximum food intake amount.
We also did not want our fullness to interfere with dessert time. Our meal
finished off with the irresistible baklava. I was disappointed that the
Sofra’s ran out of Turkish coffee, but settled with a Turkish tea
The full–bodied tea came in a tulip-shaped glass, with the small plate
of baklava. The baklava was crispy and light and wasn’t profusely
drenched in syrup: it was a standing ovation finish to a memorable
Our happy family left $65.00 lighter and more than a few pounds heavier.
Perhaps it was the magical tables or the fact we ate like Sultans, but I am
already contemplating my next meal there. I’ve learned not to turn down
Turkish hospitality. V
Every day to 10:30 pm
Sofra Turkish Cuisine
#108, 10345 – 106 Street