Best New Restaurant

Aya Sofia

It was a comparatively low-key year for new restaurant openings. Whereas the recent past brought marquee debuts (Larry Forgione's An American Place) or neighborhood-regentrifying sizzle (alas, poor JaBoni's, we knew you well), this year's fresh crop was more discreet. Which is not to say the food wasn't up to snuff. Witness Aya Sofia's bill of fare, an array of authentic Turkish/Mediterranean foods and foodstuffs, replete with legume salads, freshly chopped parsley, marinated seafood, grilled and fried vegetables, feta, goat cheese, olive oil and lemon essence—in other words, many of the things that make life worth living. Chef/owner Mehmet Yildiz put quite a few challenges in front of himself. Aya Sofia's locale, across the street from Ted Drewes in the heart of south city, isn't exactly on the map restaurant-wise. He's working in a cuisine that can get easily repetitive—all that lamb and rice and yogurt sauce—and that can be found at many other, cheaper places around town. But he has come through with colors as shining as the gold-and-maroon tones that outfit Aya Sofia's dining room. The overall result? A Turkish delight.
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