Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sofra Authentic Turkish Cuisine- Edmonton, AB

It's always great to see friends from near and far. So when a friend came to Edmonton for a business visit, a few of us decided to go out and have a nice dinner together. The friend from Calgary had seen Sofra Authentic Turkish Cuisine featured on the Food Network show "You Gotta Eat Here!" a few weeks ago and was dying to go. Now I have been to a couple of restaurants shown on YGEH and have had good experiences (see Tres Carnales Tacqueria). So on the COLDEST day in March (thanks a lot JUDY), we trekked our way downtown.

When we first walked in, I was thoroughly impressed with the decor and style of Sofra. The bright colors, painting, and sculptures gave off a warm ambiance and really reminded me of the Turkish culture. We were quickly seated (although they were not very busy) in a nice semiprivate room as we had made reservations earlier that day. A friend who had been there before said that they had renovated much of their restaurant and that it looks much better than it did before. However with the all the changes to the decor, their prices had also increased as the cost for main courses used to be ~$15 (where currently they are ~$20 today).

I was curious to know why there was this bizarre and creepy plastic eye glued into the centre of the wooden table. It was interesting to find out from our waitress that the eyes on each table (seen in the picture above) are part of the Turkish superstition. Apparently, these eye-shaped amulets are believed to ward off evil.

Judy wanted to unwind with a bottle of wine so a few of us joined in since it was nearing the end of the week.  We chose a bottle of French Merlot (Clos La Coutale), which was surprisingly tasty (as I am not a huge fan of red wine in general). This ended up being a perfect complement to go with the fish and meats of the mains.
Malber- Merlot from France 
Upon perusing the menu, many things peaked my interest from the Turkish lamb shepard's pie to the variety of dips and hummus. I finally decided on the Kiymali Pide. Others around the table decided on the kebabs of beef, chicken and swordfish.
Kiymali Pide: Finely ground beef pizza blended with vegetables and topped with cheese
The Kiymali Pide is a sort of Turkish pizza topped with finely ground beef blended with a variety of spices. This homemade baked pizza had a very thin crust filled with a layer of melt in your mouth ground beef topped with lots and lots of ooey, gooey mozzarella cheese. For $16, this pizza was not only one of the less expensive things on the menu but also one of the more tasty items. The vegetables on the side added a nice fresh crunch and were a great addition to the baked pizza.

Tavuk Sis Kebab: chicken kebabs
One of the best dishes we tried that night had to be the Tavuk Sis Kebabs (aka chicken kebabs). Most restaurants overcook their chicken to the point where the meat is super dry and then becomes chewy. This meat was very, very tender and moist. The grill on the chicken also added a nice charred flavor. All of the meat dishes were also accompanied by a side of grilled vegetables (grilled tomato and zucchini), rice (bulghar) pilaf and a mixed greens salad. I did not try the salad myself, but was told by others that the mixed greens had a nice raspberry vinegarette and was very tasty (even more tasty than the rice pilaf). The rice pilaf did not have as much flavor as the rest of the components on the plate and was considered the weakest part of the meal. A friend described the pilaf as sort of mushy and lacking in flavor.

Kilic Baligi Kebab: swordfish kebabs 
The swordfish dish was one of the more interesting dishes on the menu. I have not had much swordfish in my life, but I thought that the fish had a very meaty texture. However, a friend who has had more swordfish than I had said that she felt it was slightly overcooked. The fish did not flake apart like it should when it is cooked properly. Instead, it had a slightly chewy texture but just like the chicken, there was a nice charred flavor.

Adana Kebab: a Turkish kebab made with spicy beef
One bite of the Adana Kebab and you could immediately tell that there were a multitude of spices mixed in with the ground beef. Each bite left a nice, spicy aftertaste. This sausage like, homemade beef patty was one of Sofra's speciality dishes. The meat was very tender and had the right amount of fat to make the beef moist and hold in all of its flavor.

For dessert, we all decided to share an order of baklava and a bowl of cold rice pudding. One of the highlights of the night was definitely the baklava. This delectably sweet Turkish dessert, made up of layers of pistachios, phyllo pastry, walnuts, and honey syrup, was the perfect note to end a great meal on. The crisp pastry broke apart and melted in your mouth and the nuts added a nice crunchy texture. Unlike most baklava, which has a chewy texture when biting into, this baklava broke off with easy upon each bite. 

The cold rice pudding, or Firin Sutlac in Turkish, resembled any other normal pudding that can be found on the shelves of any grocery store.  I was not a huge fan of the rice pudding. Most of the time, rice pudding is too sweet and overwhelms the entire dish, but this rice pudding was creamy and not overly sweet. Although the flavor was good, I did feel that the rice was slightly undercooked as there was too much of a chew to it. This texture did not leave a pleasant feel or aftertaste on my palate.  

Overall, the service at Sofra was nothing more than average, at best. The waitress tried to be friendly but she came off more annoying than anything else. The atmosphere at Sofra was lively and the decor added a nice cultural aspect to the dining experience. Maybe it was the bottle of wine talking or maybe it was the good company, but the entire night was definitely surprising (in a good way!).

But by the end of the night, Judy had a few too many glasses of wine and was so starstruck by the owner (as she had seen him on the show) that he offered her a free order of Baklava to go. As quick as it came into her hands, it was gone even before we walked out the door. But it was a very nice gesture. The food, the atmosphere and the experience lead me to say that I will definitely be back to Sofra Authentic Turkish Cuisine again. I haven't been to many Turkish restaurants in Edmonton, but I suspect Sofra is one of the better ones.

Dinner menu at Sofra 
Drink menu at Sofra 

Top Picks of the Night: Tavuk Sis Kebabs and Baklava

4/5 Erics

Sofra on Urbanspoon

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