Many different restaurants have occupied the space at 7600 Forbes Avenue in Regent Square. One of the busiest intersections in Pittsburgh, it would be safe to assume that any restaurant would flourish at this location. Unfortunately, countless eateries have come and gone in this neighborhood. A few years ago, Istanbul Sofra moved into the site, and after eating there recently, I am hopeful that it will become a permanent fixture in the east end.
We arrived at dinner time- my sister and niece were in town. I had never been to Istanbul Sofra, and was anxious to try the food. I had driven by countless times on my way to Squirrel Hill, Oakland, and Shadyside- the outdoor patio was always bustling; a good sign.
We got a warm welcome from the staff, and were seated immediately. Decorative fabric menus, and metal wine carafes were atop our pre-set table. Cloth napkins, and polished silverware completed a clean, organized, setting.
The interior walls are painted with delicious hues of red and orange- I’m not sure if this design feature was created to stimulate one’s appetite, but I quickly became famished.
To start, we ordered Dolma (stuffed grape leaves, $5.00), Mixed Eggplant, ($6.00), and a small mixed Appetizer Platter, $10.00). Five minutes into our crisp white wine, the starters were served. The grape leaves were stuffed with rice, pine nuts, currants, parsley, and spices. The rolls were tangy, and flavorful- perfect. The eggplant was presented next, and I was quickly skeptical. How could they serve un-peeled eggplant? Surely it would be bitter and un-palatable. Not the case. The vegetable was soft and succulent- no bitterness. The mixed platter had a myriad of dips, spreads, and veggies- all tasty.
The entrée menu at Istanbul Sofra is extensive. If you enjoy lamb, they’ve got plenty. Chicken, salmon, and other fresh fish selections are also abundant. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you will also be pleased.
Our waiter informed me that one of the evening’s specials was Branzino; Mediterranean Sea bass. An easy choice- bring me one please. The table also ordered: Falafel Platter, ($12.00) served with chick peas, and veggies, finished with tabuli salad and rice, Grilled Salmon, ($16.00), dill, green onions, and olive oil, Chicken Adana, (ground spiced chicken, $13.00) served with rice, salad, grilled peppers, and Doner Kebab (Turkish Gyros, $14.00), marinated lamb cooked on a skewer thinly sliced, served with rice, salad, and grilled veggies.
My Branzino was served whole. The skin was charred- thick slices of lemon topped the fresh fish. The entree was cooked medium- the flesh was sweet and light. A refreshing salad with red cabbage and greens was dressed with house vinaigrette and plenty of crushed garlic. The other entrees were served, and consumed with equal enthusiasm.
As we were eating, the owner approached us and took time to chat with everyone at the table. He wanted to know if we were content with the food. “If you aren’t happy with what you have, I will be happy to get you something else,” he said. We assured him were quite satisfied with our dinner selections.
We didn’t order any dessert selections, but I’m going to return so I can sample the baklava and rice pudding.
Istanbul Sofra is an exceptional restaurant worth visiting. The impeccably fresh ingredients, carefully prepared food, very reasonable prices, and exceptional service make it a premiere Pittsburgh dining destination.