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Tantalizing Turkish-Mediterranean Food at Troya

Flatbread smeared with a thick tomato-minced beef sauce at Troya.


If you’ve sworn off carbs, Troya in San Francisco will have you falling off the wagon.

Because at this Turkish-Mediterranean establishment, it’s all about the bread.

Hand-made each day. Round, puffy and soft. Almost like focaccia. It’ll do you in. And you won’t regret it in the least.

The must-order Turkish bread with babaganhoush.

The restaurant has two locations in San Francisco — Clement Street and the Fillmore Street one, which is where I was invited to dine as a guest recently.

The long, narrow restaurant — shaped like so many businesses in this hip Fillmore neighborhood full of trendy boutiques — sports an exposed brick wall and a slender bar with industrial pendant lights.

The bar, where you also can sit and dine.

Named for the ancient city in Turkey founded in 3,000 BC, Troya is overseen by Chef Philip Busacco.

Crisp crackers are brought to the table adorned with seeds and a slight hit of spice. They’re pretty addicting, but do save room for the aforementioned Turkish bread. You can have it with an assortment of dips ($14) or just one ($5), as we did, when we chose the babaganoush. The roasted eggplant dip is supremely smooth here with a touch of tahini to give it even more body and a wonderful nuttiness. Smear it on the warm bread, take a bite, and feel your eyes roll back into your head in pure pleasure.

OK, I do love my carbs, I must admit. So, another must-try was the Lahmacun flatbread with minced beef, chiles, onions, garlic and paprika ($11). The size of an individual pizza, the round flatbread is cracker-thin. The topping is like thick, tangy tomato paste mixed with finely minced meat. A garnish of arugula adds a bite of fresh greenery.

Complimentary seeded crackers.

Fried smelts ($8) were a special that night. The small fish, coated in an almost tempura-like batter, crunched like potato chips and were as difficult to resist, especially when dipped into lemon tarator or tartar sauce.

One of the signature dishes is the Turkish beef dumplings ($19) afloat in a thick sauce of yogurt with a plentiful amount of oregano. Paprika butter, with its dazzling color, is drizzled over to add a touch of heat. The dumpling skin, tender and thin, gives way to a tiny nugget of ground beef inside. It’s a little like Italian tortellini, but far richer.

A special of fried smelts.

The famed beef dumplings.

Lamb kebabs — two skewers per order.

Marinated lamb kebab ($18) brings two hefty skewers holding cubes of charred lamb, onions and peppers on a bed of eggplant puree. The meat is smoky and tender. Squeeze on some lemon juice for just the right amount of acidity.

For dessert, enjoy the kunefe ($8), which takes 10 minutes to prepare. It’s worth it. It comes to the table looking like a veal cutlet. Shredded, golden shards of phyllo dough envelope a filling of house-made fromage blanc. Ground pistachios are sprinkled on all over the top. It’s quite buttery with the crunchy exterior giving way to the soft, mellow cheese underneath.

Kunefe with its crunchy, golden, shredded phyllo exterior.

Troya’s dishes are made for sharing. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself fighting over that last wedge of  Turkish bread.

Just saying.

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