We crossed over on the ferry on Easter Sunday with a sense of pilgrimage, having read the many glowing reviews of Ciya Sofrasi. Bemusement might best sum up our feelings as we returned back to the European side later in the afternoon.
We located the place surprisingly easily, without the assistance of a map or the fairly common lack of Turkish street signs. Our attempt to reserve a table in three hours time was met with some blank looks, matched by a similar reaction on our return at 4 pm. A table was found however but no explanation of their point-and-order system of communicating your food selection was given until we had sat for some time contemplating our bottles of water.
For the record, you go to the cold starters station and point to your choices of mezes; these are weighed and a docket is issued to you. You then order your hot food from the other station, your selection is written on a piece of paper and you pass this on to your server when you return to your table.
We chose a general selection of mezes and found them in general to be a little different and more interesting than what we had sampled in our previous four days in Istanbul. However, the hot food we selected (two lamb, two vegetarian) came lukewarm, overcooked and lacking in flavour. The options were numerous types of lamb stew, some vegetarian casseroles and two vegatable soups. While we can happily profess a total ignorance of Turkish peasant cuisine, we had hoped for a lot more excitement on our plates. Transposing ourselves back to our home country, I could not help thinking how tourists would react to a menu offering multiple variations of Irish stew.....
Sufficient to say, we ate our way through some but not all of our food and paid our (very modest) bill. Overall, we were generally underwhelmed by the experience as we obviously missed out completely on what this restaurant is all about; a good working knowledge of a particular cuisine should not be a requirement to enjoy a new food experience however.
For those making the trip over to the Anatolian side. we can highly recommend the promenade walk to Moda, an Efes overlooking the sea at Moda Teras and the walk back again ( or there is an historic tram linking Kadakoy and Moda).