Ciya Sofrasi: fabulous Turkish food in Istanbul

ciya sofrasi, istanbul

The title of this post seems redundant and silly because there’s so much good Turkish food in Istanbul. But after eating in several restaurants over five days in this beautiful city, I have to single out Çiya Sofrasi as my favorite place. Strictly speaking, Çiya serves Anatolian food: red lentil soup, purslane with barley and lentils, lamb stewed with eggplants, stuffed roasted eggplants and more. You start out with mezes, small plates of appetizers. You go up to the counter, choose your mezes from among a large variety of appetizers, they weigh it and serve it at your table. You are charged by the weight of the food on your plate, a smart way to stop people from overeating or wasting food. After the mezes, you go back and choose your main dishes. You can have them in large or small format so if you are dining with several people, it makes sense to choose four to five small plates of the main dishes. It was nearly impossible for us to choose what to eat because everything looked delicious. Turks cook meat, especially lamb, better than anyone else. Again they weighed our plates and brought them to our table.

Finally, dessert. The fruit desserts are nothing I’ve ever had before: they took whole walnuts (shell included) and candied them. The result is a candied whole walnut that is soft, luscious and sweet (but not overly so). They did the same thing to quince, figs, slices of tomatoes, chunks of pumpkin, and olives.

What I like about Çiya is that it’s a relaxed, informal place to eat. You can sit outside if it’s warm, as we did, and watch people going by. Or you can park yourself upstairs on the roofdeck.  It is located very close to the fish market so the area itself is worth a trip across the water (it is in Kadiköy on the Asian shore). Check out this article about Çiya in Food and Wine.

To get to Kadiköy from Sultanhamet, go to the docks at Eminönü and take the ferry. There are several ferries a day to and from Kadiköy (and the views from the water are stunning).

Çiya Sofrasi
Guneslibahce Sokak 43
Istanbul, Turkey
+90 216 330 3190

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About Esme Vos

Esme Vos is the founder of Mapplr, a travel site featuring boutique hotels, luxury resorts, travel guides and restaurant reviews. You can find her on and Twitter.


  1. The new Yorker just had a nice writeup about Ciya, the chef and restoring traditional Turkish cuisine back to its glory.