TROYA, Part Deux: Turkish on Fillmore
Photos and article by Virginia Miller
Call it Cal-Med, Mediterranean or Turkish, there’s plenty of the former, less of the latter in the Bay Area. In terms of Turkish eateries, you can count them. For over a decade, A La Turca has been my hole-in-the-wall stop for affordable Turkish eats, including warm, cheesy pides (like the calzones of Turkish food – flatbread stuffed with cheese, veggies or meat). More recently, Machka delighted with elegant yet approachable Turkish cuisine in a lovely Financial District space set to classic, black and white Turkish films. Tuba is a comfy, mid-range Turkish respite in the Mission, while more commonly, neighborhood restaurants like Potrero Hill’s Pera mix Turkish with other Mediterranean cuisines. My favorites for over a decade include hearty wraps at dive-y, classic Truly Mediterranean.
TROYA FILLMORE, Fillmore/Pacific Heights (2125 Fillmore St. between California & Sacramento, 415-563-1000)
Since opening over six years ago, I’ve found the Inner Richmond’s Troya a pleasant, if not overly notable, Mediterranean meal. Its newer sibling (opened last Spring), Troya on Fillmore, however, steps it up with a more sophisticated, minimalist interior and equally chic dishes. Exposed brick and clean walls marked with black and white photographs feel more current, albeit not as warm, as the original location.
Chef Philip Busacco takes on the typical Bay Area mantra of local and organic wherever possible, covering familiar Mediterranean ingredients (sumac, mint, yogurt, lamb, sesame seeds, etc…), while endeavoring to remain true to Turkey, as with lahmacun ($9-11 flatbreads), a traditional Turkish flatbread covered in minced beef, chilies, onions, garlic and paprika. It looks and taste much like lahmacun I’ve downed in Turkish hole-in-the-walls at home and in other cities… but with fresher ingredients and a pile of baby arugula in the middle. Authentic and gratifying.
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A platter of dips – muhammara (hot pepper), haydari (a tangy, herb-accented yogurt) and a well-balanced baba ghanoush, subtle with eggplant smoke ($14 for all three, $5 each) – is almost a required starter. Scoop it up with warm, puffy Turkish bread, slightly crusty on the outside, doughy within, dusted in black and white sesame seeds. Roasted cauliflower ($9) is simple but well-prepared, slightly browned on the edges, accented by spring onions and spices. Offerings of over 15 meze (essentially Middle Eastern tapas) begs a bar seat and a glass of crisp 2009 Amethystos White Drama, a Greek white blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Assytriko grapes ($9.50 a glass).
Kebabs ($11-16) are generous cubes of meat, onions and peppers, in the case of lamb kebab accompanied by a side of green salad and bulgur wheat salad. Though filling, I’d rather make a meal of various meze or order an equally filling lavash wrap ($9, only at lunch/brunch) stuffed with Turkish meatballs and shaved green onion-fennel salad. Lavash is appropriately thin, lightly crispy, warm. The standout lavash wrap is a vegetarian option loaded with sweetly roasted eggplant, almost like caramelized onions, nestled with feta, peppers and pine nuts.
Though I prefer the melting-soft moussaka at Greek newcomer, Orexi, in West Portal, during dinner, Troya’s Turkish dumplings (called manti, reminiscent of Nepalese momo) exhibit that desired tenderness, where minced-beef, paprika butter and dumpling wrapper nearly dissolve, appealingly contrasted by tangy yogurt.
There’s no finer finish than bracing Turkish coffee or soothing peppermint tea. Kunefe ($6.50), my top Middle Eastern dessert, is on the menu: shredded phyllo dough encrusted around a mild fromage blanc cheese, drizzled in honey, surrounded by grapefruit and pistachio. This rather rather bland version made me wish for Jannah’s (in the Western Addition/NoPa) kunefe, which, along with the best kunefe I’ve tried, oozes warm cheese balanced by phyllo crisp and honey sweetness.
Overall, Troya Fillmore appears to be the spiffed up, Pac Heights-ready version of the original, but after a few visits, I find it to be the realized version, peaceful for lunch, with upscale, fresh takes on Turkish cuisine.