In July, The Wall Street Journal published a lengthy piece on the publishing industry's quest for the next international thriller sensation à la Stieg Larsson, and among the authors cited was one of Turkey's best-selling writers of detective novels, Mehmet Murat Somer.
The unnamed narrator of Somer's stealthily political Hop-Çiki-Yaya series — “Hop-Çiki-Yaya” being a Turkish cheerleading chant that's come to also be used to describe flamboyant gays — is part-owner of a nightclub that caters to a transvestite clientele, but also an accomplished crime-solver who occasionally cross-dresses himself using Audrey Hepburn as his fashion role model. Like all good international crime fiction, Somer's prose doubles as a exotic travelogue — in this case of present-day Istanbul — but it also stands as a basic primer for Turkish cuisine.
Throughout The Prophet Murders (Serpent's Tail; 2008) Somer's first of three Hop-Çiki-Yaya books published in the U.S., the lead protagonist snacks on dolma, swills glasses of the tart, foamy yogurt drink known as ayran and bemoans what the rich poğaça — a cream-filled Turkish puff pastry — is going to do to his waistline.
Then there are the endless mentions of borek, which made us wonder if Somer's hero could ever resist the savory pastries at Sofra Kebab Express on Venice Blvd. There, layers of phyllo dough are brushed with butter, filled with spinach, feta cheese or potato, then baked and cut into squares. One thing's for certain: they aren't diet food. Somer's calorie-counting hero would surely concur that Sofra's borek might make his leather catsuit fit a little more snugly, but also that it might be worth it.
Sofra Kebab Express: 10821 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 838-8833.