July 17, 2007By Richard HesseArchive

Turkish Delight

Derya Restaurant, Paris
One of Derya’s amiable waiters on the run.

Sometimes, after a very hard day in the coalmine, going home and making a meal can be quite a challenge. Usually there is at least some pasta, garlic and olive oil in the kitchen, and, like the good doctor in Treasure Island, I am never without a chunk of Parmesan. But sometimes, even throwing those few magical ingredients together is just too much for my strung-out neurons. That’s when I say to myself: “This calls for a Derya.”

Derya serves Turkish food to a strictly local clientele, many of them Turks themselves, who constitute a considerable percentage of this rainbow neighborhood. Its large, rectangular, high-ceilinged dining room is decorated with restful engravings of Constantinople and the Golden Horn, and it is one of the most laid-back eateries I know, which is what makes it such a great place to unwind. The boss and waiters are amiable, and on our last visit the other evening, Katherine and I were even asked whether we preferred to sit in a nonsmoking area. They are unusually friendly to gastro-hounds too, and Bertie is very happy, tucked safely under the billowy white tablecloths.

A vegetarian could eat quite happily at Derya by simply ordering a selection of such starters as hummus, yogurt and spinach tarator, and creamy eggplant and tomato imam bayildi (which translates as “the imam fainted” – with delight when he first tasted it). Among the hot starters are börek, crispy triangles of filo pastry filled with goat’s cheese, and an absolutely stunning lentil soup with a hint of fresh mint (not for vegetarians, as the base is a meat stock). I know the menu by heart after frequenting Derya for the past four years. Katherine rates the stuffed vine leaves as the best going.

Main courses are mostly charbroiled meats – delicious lamb, chicken and spicy ground-meat adana, generally served with a tomato, cucumber and lettuce salad and a scoop of tomato-flavored buckwheat. My all-time favorites here are the alti ezmeli sis, chunks of freshly broiled lamb in fiery stewed tomatoes, and the “mixed grill,” which comes with grilled lamb cutlets, chicken, adana and lamb kidneys. Katherine is currently besotted with the alti ismeli adana – same as the sis but with spiced ground meat hot off the griddle.

After that you can linger (and Derya is a place where people do linger) over a cup of Turkish coffee and some locally baked pastries. Derya always has a soothing, reinvigorating effect on us, I think because of the beautifully proportioned dining room, the relaxed atmosphere even on the liveliest nights, the attentiveness of the waiters, and the handshake that invariably accompanies you back onto the ever-heaving street outside.

Richard Hesse

Derya: 16, rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010 Paris. Métro: Strasbourg Saint Denis.
Nearest Vélib: Rue de Metz). Tel.: 01 47 70 87 84. Open daily for lunch and dinner, A la carte: €20-€25.

© 2007 Paris Update

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Reader Reaction

Sibel Pinto ( writes: “Thanks for Richard Hesse’s article. Derya is a good Turkish restaurant where you can have a decent meal and taste some basic specialities of Turkish cuisine. Of course it is not “haute gastronomie,” and the menu is very similiar to lots of Turkish restaurants found in France.

“A little correction to the article: “alti ezmeli” (not alti ismeli) are tomatoes that are first grilled, then crushed and served under the meat.

“As a cook, caterer and researcher on Ottoman and Turkish cuisines, I know that Turkish gastronomy is far ahead of what can be found in restaurants, with a whole range of mezes, soups, meat and fish dishes, kebaps, boreks, pilav (rice dishes) and vegetables cooked in olive oil. We have more than 100 types of eggplant dishes alone! It is a pity that our gastronomical culture is not very well-presented outside of Turkey. I am trying to do my best to prepare regional, ethnic and traditional specialties for people who are willing to taste our immense cuisine.”

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