Sofra Istanbul is a long-standing Turkish restaurant in Toronto, known for making some of the best pide in town.
A “sofra” is a low Turkish table setting, which would typically be spread with lots of the foods available here, nibbles like cigar rolls and falafel accompanying larger pide, shawarma and kebabs.
The restaurant has been around since the early 2000s and though ownership has changed several times, the chef has apparently stayed the same, making everything on site from scratch, mostly in an open kitchen.
This means all pide ($13.28) are baked to order in full view of customers; toppings ranging from typical cheese with sausage, chicken or spinach to more specialized varieties like roasted beef and mozzarella, ground beef and lamb with peppers and pepper paste, or ground beef and feta.
A veggie pide is topped with spinach, feta, onions, mushrooms, red peppers and mozzarella for a traditional Turkish pizza that’s meat-free but still has a lot of flavour going on, with the oblong crust being nice and crispy.
Lahmajun go for the same price for an order of four, very thin, round Turkish pizzas topped with a ground beef with pepper, onion, garlic, tomato, parsley and herbs. Wake up the spicy little snack pies a bit with a squeeze of lemon.
Scratch-made falafel come in an order of six for $7.53 as an appetizer.
Crispy, herby and addictive, the chickpea fritters are flavoured with coriander and garlic and served with a nutty, creamy tahini sauce.
Splurge a little on Beyti ($19.03), a very shareable dish that sees two grilled ground beef and lamb skewers wrapped in soft house lavash and smothered in lots of sweet tomato sauce, served with grilled veg and thick, cooling, tangy yogurt.
Ali Nazik ($16.82) is another very traditional dish that’s a little less pricey, a heap of mashed roasted eggplant, ground beef, garlic, parsley, tomato and green pepper served on a generous bed of very garlicky, tangy yogurt.
Best scooped up with puffy house pita, it’s a dish full of lots of different bold flavours that’s still comforting.
Lamb shish kebab ($19.92) is the priciest of a selection of kebabs, but you can go all out further with whole racks of lamb or steaks. Served with a well-seasoned mash, the meat is marinated for two to three days in a simple but powerful blend of crushed onion, olive oil, salt and pepper.
For dessert, there’s syrupy, cheesy kunefe ($7.53) as well as a selection of baklava.
The initiated might want to wash everything down with very sour and salty ayran, a drink made in house with yogurt and water.
However, I tend to prefer a Fanta-like Uludag soda ($2.44).