Turkish beef dumplings (manti). Photo by Nick Sholley.
Flatbread with arugula and feta. Photo by Nick Sholley.
Zucchini fritters. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Roasted cauliflower with urfa. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Baklava. Photo by Nick Sholley.
Interior (and bar area). Photo by Nick Sholley.
There is nothing like returning from an international trip and wondering if the food of that country is forever ruined for you once you’re back home. I remember when my sister and I came back from India and we were hesitant to eat Indian for a while—we didn’t want to be disappointed after a month of eating otherworldly flavors and spices. So after my vacation last year to Turkey—three weeks of eating some of the freshest and most vibrant food—I was feeling the same hesitation before dining at the new ~TROYA FILLMORE~. But then I remembered how much I loved their manti (dumplings) at their original Clement Street location and decided it was time to dive in.
Owners Berk Kinalilar and Brigitte Cullen did up the former Citizen Cake space in warmer shades of amber and wood, but it still has a spare and contemporary look (and the friendly staff will soon warm things up for you). And while the layout is mostly the same, there’s a wood communal table/bar in the front—solo diners and folks who just want a glass of wine and a bite can also post up at the bar. Another new addition here: Philip Busacco (previously chef de cuisine at Terzo for the last six years) is the chef—he’s adding some California touches, and using quality ingredients.
The menu has a long list of meze, some more traditionally Turkish, while others veer into a modern Mediterranean style. As soon as the round, sesame-studded, and freshly baked Turkish bread (pide) hit the table, I got excited. One bite and I was ready to rumble (they have an in-house Turkish baker who also makes the pastas, so the flavors and preparations are truly authentic). Get the bread with the trio ($5/$14) of hummus, haydari (a yogurt dip with garlic and dill—my favorite), and muhammara (a dip with walnuts, peppers, and bread crumbs). I also enjoyed the Persian cucumber salad ($7) with radish, fennel, kalamata olives, and dill dressing—simple but so good.
The golden brown zucchini fritters ($7) with mint and yogurt are delicate and delicious, and for those craving some spice, the Turkish-spiced green beans ($8) and roasted cauliflower with spring onions and urfa ($8) both pack some heat (the kitchen served our table some shot glasses of ayran, the ubiquitous yogurt drink in Turkey, to tame the spice).
Did you notice how all these dishes are vegetarian? Troya is an ideal spot when you have a mixed crowd of carnivores and vegetarians—everyone wins. My meat-eating friend and I went in on the braised lamb dolmas ($9)—four juicy bundles are served on a bed of tahini, with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses (nar eksisi), an acidic flavor I grew to love during my travels.
And did you take note of these prices? Let me tell you, this place is one of the better deals in town. Portions are rather ample. You can make a feast of meze on your table, so try to come in a group of four if you can. The wine list also has some affordable picks (especially by the bottle), and the staff is happy to give you a taste if you’re hesitant about committing to a glass of Turkish wine (which was better here than anything I drank in Turkey). And then there’s Turkish Efes, a light pilsner, along with three local beers on draft.
There are three picks in the “Anatolian flatbreads” (all $11)—I was happy to have lahmacun (say “lah-ma-joon”) back in my life, spread with a spiced and minced beef on top, while the roasted eggplant and ricotta pleased my vegetarian pal.
The larger plates ($15) include the can’t-miss Turkish beef dumplings (manti) that come topped with a drizzle of yogurt and paprika butter, and the moussaka, a bubbling cauldron of nicely seasoned eggplant, braised beef, and the creamy kicker: béchamel. (It’s a heavy dish, so don’t attempt it alone.) The kebabs (lamb or grilled vegetables) pale in comparison to the rest of the dishes—there’s nothing particularly memorable about them. Well, except the creamy eggplant purée that came with the lamb kebab.
Dessert is all about the flaky baklava or cheese-filled künefe (try it!), but my favorite part was the Turkish coffee service, made with coffee from Kurukahvecisi Mehmet Efendi in Istanbul. (I actually brought a can of that finely ground gunpowder home with me from my trip. As soon as I smell that coffee, it takes me right back to one of my favorite Turkish rituals—I think I was drinking Türk kahvesi about five times a day when I was there. Yes, the hopper was hopped up.)
Troya Fillmore is a welcome addition to the neighborhood and is open for lunch and dinner, plus weekend brunch. It’s one of those comfortable and easy spots you don’t need to think too much about, and is very come as you are, whether you have the parents in tow or you’re on a first date.