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