Turkish cuisine might not be on the top of your list when it comes to deciding where to eat on a night out. It definitely wasn’t on mine but a dinner at The Cellar at Sofra last week quickly changed that. A hidden gem, the three month old extension of Sofra in downtown’s core is serving up authentic and traditional mezze (or meze), similar to the Spanish concept of tapas. As a big fan of tasting plates and small bites, this was right up my alley and thanks to my friend Lesley’s suggestion, a group of us made a visit.
Sofra isn’t new to Edmonton but their separate mezze menu and extensive selection of wines for their underground space is. Two distinct seating areas define The Cellar: tables amongst dimly lit mosaic lamps, creating an intimate and romantic dining experience; and the open, brightly lit area featuring none other than a set of ‘sofra’, low tables or trays for dining seated on the floor, with colourful seating cushions. Can you guess where we sat?
Crunchy coated peanuts started off the evening, an addictive snack that left all of us mindlessly snacking.
The Meze Tabagi: an assorted meze platter with yaprak karma, stuffed Turkish apricots, fried helm cheese, grilled black tiger prawns, and Bosnian sausage. The stuffed Turkish apricots were a favourite and I loved the smokiness of the prawns. An ideal plate for 2 – 4 diners, our group of 8 were left wanting more bites!
The Incik Kuzu, a lamb loin served on a bed of sautéed vegetables, in-house tomato basil sauce was cooked medium rare as per requested, and was very nicely done. I was expecting the spices to pack a punch, like a Moroccan lamb roast, and stronger notes of cumin but the dish didn’t deliver that. Perhaps it wasn’t meant to (I’m new to Turkish cuisine!) but we cleaned it up nevertheless.
My absolute favourite main dish of the night was the grilled beef meatballs served on a dollop of yogurt and topped with sautéed tomatoes, the Parmak Kofte. There’s something about meatballs that’s universal throughout all cuisines, a comforting dish and one that can please any palate. An absolute must order, the kofte were moist and flavourful! Mmm, I want more.
The Fume Ordek Beyti, a smoked duck breast, was cleverly plated to make a none other than, a flying bird. Paired with fresh herbs and rolled in phyllo pastry, the packages were lightly toasted in the pan and brushed with a cayenne butter mixture and cut into pieces to share. The phyllo pastry consistency was a little different from your typical phyllo dough and the bite really brought out textures that reminded me of green onion cakes, not a bad thing.
My least favourite dish was the halibut, wrapped in beef pastrami and baked with an accompanying tomato, pepper, and mushroom sauce. The Tranca Pastirimi fell flat for me compared to all the other dishes although I appreciated that there was a seafood option in the menu.
Desserts rounded out our meal, the baklava, a sweet layered pastry filled with walnuts, pistachios, and honey, were a hit for all and perfect for a sweet tooth. I absolutely loved my parfait of vanilla ice cream and caramelized figs, I could have eaten that all night!
Overall, I’m so happy to have found another small plate dining option in the downtown core! Even better, on Tuesdays any bottle of wine under $60 is half off, making that night’s meal even more delightful. Good company, good food, and wine. I don’t think I can ask for more. The Cellar at Sofra’s strong points are I think what Turkish food would be known for, like the grilled meats, kofte, and pitas. I’m excited to come back to try the Kabak Dolma, zucchini halves filled with your choice of toppings and the Helim Peynir, thinly sliced grilled eggplant wrapped around some of that beautiful helm cheese.
Not only do I have to make another trip to The Cellar but the upstairs has a completely different menu and more catered to individual plates. So excited to have tried Sofra! Service was amazing and accommodating to all our needs. Absolutely loved the experience and can’t wait to return.
The Cellar at Sofra
10345 106 Street