When we lived in Istanbul, I loved taking our visitors from the European side to the Anatolian part of the city.
Not only could our friends enjoy a vapur ride on the Bosphorus, but they also could say they had been to “Asia.” I would even time our visit so we could eat at one of my favorite and one-of-a-kind places in the city – Çiya located in the Kadıköy neighborhood.
In the last few years, Çiya has earned the recognition as one of the city’s foodie hotspots, as mentioned by IstanbulEats, DeliciousIstanbul and Parla Food. Çiya's owner/chef, Musa Dağdeviren, from Gaziantep in southern Turkey, has travelled all over Turkey as well as the Balkans and neighboring countries collecting his recipes. The result is some of the most distinctive dishes you’ll find in Istanbul such as candied vegetables, meats cooked with seasonal fruits and wild herbs and greens. Dağdeviren’s menu is always changing at his three locations located on the same pedestrian-only street in Kadıköy.
On my initial visit to Çiya with Selin of Turkish Flavours in 2011, Dağdeviren was making Turkish pide and kindly hung out with our group for a bit. Of course, I had to ask if I could get my photo taken with the chef, and he obliged.
As soon as you walk into Çiya, you’ll notice its fantastic salad bar that’s always filled with unique wild herbs and greens, hummus and other seasonal nibbles. This is where I start. Grab a plate, select your favorite dishes and then be sure to get your plate weighed by the helpful staff. You could make a meal just out of this salad bar!
The main dishes always change, depending on the season, but you’ll usually find a few soups as well as several meat-based dishes such as kuzu etli ayva dolması (lamb cooked with quince), celeriac stuffed with rice and ground beef, vişneli köfte (meatballs cooked in a tangy sour cherry sauce) or a tasty meat stew with baby okra. I find it difficult not to order one of everything especially if it’s a dish I haven’t tried before. These dishes aren't fancy, just honest, homecooked food, and the flavors are outstanding.
|One of my favorite dishes when it's in season - kuzu etli ayva dolması.|
Conclude your delightful meal with a refreshing şerbet, a sweet, fruit-based beverage popular during the Ottoman era.
For dessert, I always have a hard time deciding between künefe or katmer, both desserts hail from southeast Turkey. However, if you would like a unique dessert, order Çiya’s plate of candied fruits and vegetables. Who knew candied olives could be so tasty?
|Dessert time at Çiya.|
During my next visit to Istanbul this spring, I might have to include a stop at Çiya as well!
Çiya Sofrası and Çiya Kebab (right across the street from each other)
Güneşlibahçe Sokak 43