Sahara Restaurant & Grill set to open soon under new ownership from previous Istanbul Sofra |

Sahara Restaurant & Grill set to open soon under new ownership from previous Istanbul Sofra

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review
(right) Owner and executive chef Edip Sensel purchased the former Istanbul Sofra in Regent Square and renamed it Sahara Restaurant & Grill. Pictured with him is manager Serdar "Max" Akyuz.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review
Some of the new light fixtures, handmade in Turkey, decorate the former Istanbul Sofra in Regent Square which has been bought and renamed Sahara Restaurant & Grill.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review
Some of the new decorations inside the former Istanbul Sofra in Regent Square which has been bought and renamed Sahara Restaurant & Grill.

Sahara Restaurant & Grill should open within the next week in Regent Square, replacing the controversial Istanbul Sofra, the new owner told the Tribune-Review on Tuesday.

Istanbul Sofra began faltering after its previous owner, Adnan Hilton Pehlivan, was arrested on rape and stalking charges.

“I was a little nervous about purchasing the restaurant because of what happened and I felt a little bit bitter,” said Sahara owner and executive chef Edip Sensel, referring to charges filed against the former owner. “We want our customers to come back. It feels good to own something. We made plenty of changes, but the food will remain as high quality as ever.”

Pehlivan, 47, is charged with stalking and sexually assaulting a woman in her South Side home. His trial is scheduled to begin next week.

Sensel said he has owned similar restaurants with his brother in New York and Texas as well as by himself in Oregon. He plans a menu similar to the one at Istanbul Sofra, where he worked as a chef.

Sahara will serve Turkish, Mediterranean cuisine and maintain a BYOB option. Wine is a perfect pairing for most dishes, Sensel said.

They plan to offer online ordering as well as a catering service and specials. There is plenty of outdoor seating once the weather breaks.

The new name and ownership is about a fresh start, a fresh look, said manager Serdar “Max” Akyuz. The two have re-decorated with extravagant light fixtures and photos and other wall hangings handmade in Turkey.

“We have been hearing from customers who can’t wait for us to open because they know his talent, they know how good the food is,” Akyuz said. “People have come from different states to eat here. We want to change the image.”

All the spices, such as isot and sumac, and other main ingredients come from Turkey. Dishes are made to order by Sensel, who often doesn’t have to look at a recipe.

“I know this food,” he said. “I just know from seeing with my eyes and touching with my hands and tasting.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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