Cafe Troya Update
Headed out to Clement to try Troya last night. It was on our must try list after a few positive mentions on the board, particularly for hubby who has never been successful in finding meals in SF that approximate the ones he ate on his travels through Turkey a few years before we met...also checked out Robert Lauriston's review in the SF Weekly for tips, and hearing that the chef had cooked at Aziza sealed the deal: I knew we had to try the place:
We had good luck with cross-town traffic and arrived early. We were promptly seated by the window, after making a reservation through Open Table. Apparantly Troya's corner spot has housed a succession of other places. Hubby had visited some of the other incarnations and thought they had done a nice job of spiffing it up: sleek bar (only wine and beer served though) along one side, tables decently spaced, candlelight. Very welcoming and comfortable. When we arrived around seven it was mostly empty, but definitely filled up by the time we left.
We were quickly greeted and given menus and wine list. No specials were offered last night other than a soup of the day, which was onion (and which we didn't try). The wine list is interesting and well-chosen, though I do suspect prices may have been raised just a bit based upon other recent reports: at any event, I saw no bottles in the $20s and only a few in the thirties. I've been on a Syrah kick lately so we ordered a bottle of the Cline Cool Climate Syrah, either 2004 or 2005 (sorry forgot which vintage), $39. That's perhaps a bit less than 2.5 times the winery price so not a huge markup but not sure its a bargain either. We enjoyed it very much; goes very well with some of the spicier choices on the menu.
Service was excellent: friendly, professional, and efficient throughout the meal.If anything, food was brought a bit quicker than some would prefer, but I actually like that. Our check was brought just after cofee and tea, but the server made a point of encouraging us to linger.
Dishes we tried were:
stuffed squid: three generous cuts of squid, served hot, with a salad of greens, fennel, pine nuts, capers and cannellini beans, and stuffed with spinach and goat cheese. The squid was very tender and the dish was tasty. However, I thought the squid was just an iota the other side of perfect freshness (could it have been frozen previously?) and the dish didn't match up to a similar dish that is often on the menu at Bacco. Next time, I will try something else.
dolmas: I love dolmas, and while these were served warm (which is how I prefer them, actually, and how hubby says he usually had them in Turkey), not cool, I otherwise have to agree with Robert's assessment: these were probably the best dolmas I've ever eaten. The lamb stuffing was rich yet subtly flavored with vinegar and delicious. Served four to an order. I'd go back just for these. I almost ordered more right on the spot.
Manti (turkish ravioli): stuffed with lamb and drizzled with a yogurt and a paprika sauce, with small bits of cooked chard. Toothsome little pillows, perfectly al dente, delicious. The chard was also perfectly cooked. If I had to nit pick I'd say they were very slightly underseasoned, but only because I love salt too much...
beef turlu: a generous portion, with potatoes, onions and greens. Alas, no cauliflower last night. With cauliflower it would have been perfect. As it was, the beef really did melt in your mouth, the potatoes, which I think had been roasted before being put into the stew, were creamy yet provided a textural contrast with the beef, and the sauce was rich. The dish tasted somewhat like my best pot roast, which is not a ding at all, though perhaps hubby was hoping for something more than he could get at home... <g>
We also had a side of grilled asparagus; simple, nicely done. Again, just a tad underseasoned to my taste. I need to start watching my salt intake, perhaps.
We were full after these dishes, and none of the desserts on offer (an almond cake, baklava, chocolate pot de creme, kunefe) really appealed, so we settled for turkish coffee (hubby) and chamomile tea (me). Hubby said the coffee served in a small samovar transported him back to the Anatolian coast, but the tea, alas, was just Twinnings in a tea bag. I was offered additional hot water though, in accord with the overal caliber of the service.
Total for a bottle of wine, two apps, two mains, one side, tea and coffee with tax and generous tip was about $117. Appetizers range from $4 to $7 or 8; most entrees are in the mid to high teens and desserts are $6 each, so one could definitely get out for less than we did. The value is excellent.
We left happy, knowing we had tried some creative cooking and dishes unusual for the City, without having to spend a fortune. Too bad Green Apple Books is in the next block: alas, it ate up all of the funds we saved by not going to Aziza instead, and then some.
349 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94118
i think i know why it isn't so hard to get a table at Troya. my wife and i walked in and had an pretty underwhelming dinner there two weekends ago.
briefly, the Mediterranean spreads were just plain bland (compare them to those at Aziza and you'll know the difference); the flatbread was ok. the manti were more like ravioili than the smallish dumplings they ought to be; also, they must sit in a tangy yogurt sauce, not just get zigzagged with some out of a squirt bottle. the moussaka had nothing in the way of texture to hold it together.
the biggest disappointment, though, was the baklava: dry, honeyless and unsticky. we should have sent it back or shimmed a table with it.
total, with a couple of glasses of wine, tax and tip was $84. we'll stick to Sunrise Deli on Irving and with Aziza for splurges.
I thought the manti were delicious, one of the best vegetarian entrées I've had in recent years. Saucing them with two squirt bottles makes the dish beautiful without affecting the flavor.
I thought their moussaka tasted great too. Very light and delicate, quite different from the Greek heavily spiced slab.
re: Robert Lauriston
The version of manti I had were not vegetarian, but yes, they were delicious. It was similar to a ravioli, and not as small as manti can be (I saw some very small ones at the Fresno farmer's market last week), but I don't think that is at all a ding given the quality of the pasta and how fresh tasting and perfectly cooked it was...
Troya *is* doing something different. The chef, Randy Gannaway, is taking a similar approach to Turkish food as Mourad Lahlou does to Moroccan at Aziza (where Gannaway was a sous chef before moving to Troya). The non-traditional manti are an example.
If you want traditional Turkish cooking, go to Gyro King or A La Turca, or Turkish Kitchen in Berkeley.
You know, I wasn't going to report until I tried this place a second time because I was seriously underwhelmed. However, the staff was pleasant and with other good reports I thought I might have hit an off night.
Your report almost is what I would have wrote ... but I would have added that the food was lukewarm.
Maybe my expectations were too high, so I'll hold off until I try it again ... though after seeing your report of a similar experience ... this won't be high on my re-do list.
I thought the food was fine but like you I might just stick to other places ... Turkish Kitchen for more traditional and Aziza for more creative.
I don't know alot about Turkish food and I'm not a fan of Middle Eastern food in general ... but unlike Turkish Kitchen and Aziza this just didn't ring my chowbells.
It is probably good food at good prices and I'll just have to see when I go in a next time without hightened expectations. I'm not ready at this point to go into details because I did like the place, if not the food, and I might be a little too harsh at this point. Though the dolmas didn't get me over my general dislike of dolmas.
re: Robert Lauriston
yes, I agree. We made our reservation that morning. I hadn't even realized that the Chron reviewed it Wednesday. Or maybe it registered only sublimally.
It appeared to me that a fair amount of the business was walk-in (perhaps people who didn't want to wait at Burma Superstar, which was jammed? or maybe Burma Superstar is always jammed?).