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May 06
Features, Reviews (Eats)
Çiya: Loquat Kebabs and Mesopotamian Truffles at Istanbul’s Culinary Shrine

For us, one of the highlights of spring in Istanbul is a visit to Çiya Sofrası, the Asian-side eatery that is very likely the best restaurant in Istanbul. It’s certainly not the fanciest or most cutting-edge place in town, but we rarely leave Çiya without having a profoundly new and memorable taste experience. Thanks to glowing write-ups in numerous other places, Çiya – along with a sister restaurant across the street serving excellent kebabs – is no longer the off-the-beaten-path secret it once was. But the restaurant – located on a quiet, pedestrian-only street in the Kadıköy neighborhood’s bazaar – has remained true to what has made it successful in the first place.

That success comes from the vision of owner and chef Musa Dağdeviren, who hails from the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep and who is something of a culinary anthropologist, collecting recipes from around Turkey and even publishing a journal devoted to Turkish food culture (Yemek ve Kültür, sadly, only in Turkish). The end result of Musa’s digging and collecting is a menu that features unusual regional dishes that you will very likely not find anywhere else.

What’s on offer changes daily (there’s always a variety of vegetarian dishes), which means there isn’t an actual menu. Instead, ordering is done by walking up to a chef who watches over more than a dozen bubbling pots and other dishes containing prepared food and pointing to what looks interesting. The “menu” also changes according to what’s in season – and in springtime things can get downright funky at the restaurant. On a recent visit, we ate a delicious meat stew cooked with bracingly tart unripe green plums, as well as keme, a mushroom found in central and eastern Anatolia that we like to think of as a Mesopotamian truffle. Cut up in slices and grilled on a skewer, this hearty fungus tastes like an earthy cross between a Portobello mushroom and a very delicate potato. Also available this time of year is an item called yenidünya kebabı – made with pitted loquats that are stuffed with ground meat and then grilled – as well as artichokes stuffed with rice and herbs. On another visit, we also had very tasty and unusual dolma (stuffed grape leaves), which were filled with rice and lor, a kind of farmer’s cheese, and topped with caramelized onions.

As much as we enjoy visiting Çiya in spring, we certainly are not opposed to eating there in summer, winter or fall. With the food this good, it’s a restaurant for all seasons.

Address: Güneşlibahçe Sokak 43, Kadıköy
Telephone: 216-330-3190

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9 Responses to “ Çiya: Loquat Kebabs and Mesopotamian Truffles at Istanbul’s Culinary Shrine ”
  1. A couple of weeks ago I had a quince and lamb chili. i’m usually not too hot on the idea of sweet fruits in my meat dishes but this one was a revelation for me. a changed man, i ordered a second helping.

  2. I love Ciya and the fact that they have a kebab called yeni dunya (new world-if im not mistaken!). I could eat there literally every day!

  3. Çiya is wonderful, and I have guests coming from abroad tomorrow, which means an excuse to go there. As if I need one 😉 BTW “Yeni Dünya” is one name for Loquat.

  4. Absolutely one of the highlights of our visit to Istanbul!  The dessert of candied fruits an vegetables (green walnuts, orange peel, pumpkin, tomato, olives…) was a revelation, making one think about ingredients in an entirely different way.  Truly one the best restuarants in the world.

  5. Shaan Khan

    Aug 27, 2009

    It saddens me that most of my friends in America just think of Kabobs when they think of Turkish food. I have been to Turkey / Istanbul a few times.I am amazed at the width and depth of Turkish cuisine. Unfortunately never been to Ciya. I have heard about this restaurant from so many people that I am now “desperate” to eat there. Hopefully will do that next time I visit Istanbul. But it seems like Ciya is the kind of place where you go with a group so that you can order a whole bunch of things, and sample a little of everything. Maybe I will skip breakfast so that I can eat a few things.

  6. My wife and I discovered Ciya last year on our third visit to Istanbul and can endorse everything that’s been said here.

    We were so impressed that this year we are going to Gaziantep for our holiday to see (and eat) what is meant to be the source of many of Ciya’s inspirations. On the way back we hope to stop off in Kadikoy. No prizes for guessing where we will be eating! Don’t forget the shop across the road – just the same quality with their own bread oven.

  7. Martin Juvelier

    Jun 25, 2010

    Is it possible to bring your own wine sinc e the restaurant does not serve alcohol or is it necessary to run to the near by restauants for such drinks which does not seem like much fun. Why does this venu not serve alcohol? If for relegious reasnons, I will understand, but given the recent hype about Turkish wines and their furture, it seems like a good idea to do.Martin

  8. Martin, we don’t think it’s possible to bring your own wine there. It’s probably more a question of licensing than religious reasons, as well as it being a restaurant that serves a kind of cuisine that doesn’t traditionally include the drinking of wine.

  9. I was at Ciya last night for the first time in a long time. Just as good as I remember it being. The highlight of my meal was a “visne kebab” which looked like something you might get at IKEA- meatballs swimming in a fruit sauce. But this one was really special- rich and smokey, sour, not sugary or too sweet. I dont know how long they will be serving this one, but you can check the menu on Ciya’s website:

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