Troje, meaning “silo,” took over the short-lived Nayarit space at the south end of South Van Ness Avenue, and bills itself as a kind of “medi/tapas” place. Efraim, the owner, and his brother, who is the chef, are from the Yucatan. The name of the restaurant pays homage to his grandmother, who used to have a corn silo, but Efraim didn’t want a Mexican restaurant. He wanted something more Spanish, Italian, French, Moroccan.
Efram has been in the industry 17 years, and Troje is his first restaurant. But unfortunately, it’s not in a great location, as Nayarit learned. However, along with his wife, who hails from Cuba, and who served us, and their adorable daughter Maya, this is definitely a family affair.
On our first visit, we found the menu a bit of a mish-mash; like, what’s medi about chicken and waffles? Nonetheless, I had to try it.
We were told that his brother the chef was actually on vacation that evening, so Efraim was cooking. The chicken was decently fried but unfortunately very underseasoned. Waffles were … waffles, drizzled with a sriracha maple syrup – a nice touch.
BF had a decent, not great, cheeseburger on a brioche bun.
These type of buns are a no-no for me, as they tend to fall apart. Also on the plate were some incredibly delicious curried pickled veggies. I find most places make their pickles too sour, and they’re not enjoyable, but these were perfect. It’s a good sign to when a chef nails something so seemingly simple as this.
The fries were also pretty tasty.
We also shared an order of fantastic parm Brussels sprouts with a caper sauce.
They didn’t need the sauce, the sprouts were so good on their own.
I had a lovely Viognier for only $10 a glass. Other things on the menu are hummus, bruschetta, flatbread, meatball gratin, arancini with turmeric and manchego. Also, $1 oysters, but they were out of them, as it was a bottomless mimosa brunch day. I had my doubts that all these varied genres could work as a cohesive culinary whole, but we gave it another shot.
On our second visit, we decided to go all-in and do the tapas things. And they had oysters!
Super briny and bright, West Coast (wife wasn’t sure where they were from).
We split pork belly crostini.
Fabulous! Crispy, tender, fatty, like the best carnitas ever, with a nice schmear of harissa, creamy slices of avo, and crunchy, lightly pickled red onions. The only nit to pick was the bread. It’s a bread found at a lot of the Mexi-marts in the Mission — bolillo-type – which is fine in certain applications but for me is too soft and rather characterless. A better quality, heartier bread would have been a much better handle for these. No matter, I was sad when the dish was over.
Next, we had the arancini.
These had an improbable list of ingredients that I was sure wouldn’t work: mushroom, pimento, curry, and manchego, in a romesco sauce. Really? Yes, really. They were wonderful. Although the curry wasn’t really discernible, the manchego stood out, and the romesco was nicely piquant.
Next came the mac & cheese.
The only bummer was we forgot to order it with the optional chorizo. But another winner! Creamy, crispy/golden on top, everything you want in M&C. The cheeses were gruyere and mascarpone, with shallot bread crumbs. A delight.
Finally, the meatball “gratin.”
Not sure what was “gratin” about this – there was no melty cheese, no breadcrumb topping, and the cooking/serving vessel was a little cast iron pan, but they were perfect, lounging in a slightly spicy arrabbiata sauce. Again served with that very blah bread, but we didn’t even need it.
This visit was so much better than the first, and we’re always happy when a restaurant redeems itself. The family had done a slight remodel before they opened, and the space is very pleasant. And at these prices and with the tapas being the way to go, I’d come here for a happy hour anytime. Love to support local, family-owned-and-run small businesses. Let’s help Troje be the Little Silo That Could!
1500 South Van Ness Ave.