Join Culinary Backstreets

Sign up with email


Already a member? Log in.

Log in to Culinary Backstreets

Trouble logging in?

Not a member? Sign up!

Like Clark Kent hiding his Superman tights beneath a brown suit and glasses, Klemuri maintains the appearance of a predictable Beyoğlu café – wooden tables, shelves loaded with knickknacks, Buena Vista Social Club on the stereo, spinach crepes and a crispy chicken salad on the menu. But down in the kitchen, out of public view, Klemuri’s alter ego – a spry Laz cook – is waiting to save you from another boring “café” lunch.

Turkish stereotypes like to portray the Laz – an ethnic group from Turkey’s Northeast Black Sea region – as amusing, ignorant mountain folk, who talk with an odd accent and dance a wild jig; they are also the beloved butt of many a one-liner. Thankfully, there is more to the Laz than the caricatures of Dursun and Temel and their redneck adventures. There is the food.

At Klemuri, which in the Laz language refers to the chain that holds the cauldron over the fire, the Karadeniz tabağı (“Black Sea platter”) offers a nice sampling of Black Sea specialties: thick rolls of chard leaves stuffed with a hearty mixture of meat and rice; sautéed onions with crushed walnuts; turşu kavurma, tangy pickled beans fried in a skillet; and a sort of potato salad served hot. On the side comes a basket of cornbread, the hallmark of Black Sea cuisine.

On every visit, we’ve been happy to find Klemuri’s muhlama – a sort of Laz fondue – heavy on the cornmeal and butter. A skillet of cheese fresh from the yayla, or highland pastures, shot through with cornmeal and pan-fried in rich butter is a delicious reminder of the Kaçkar Mountains. But be careful: one portion of this rich dish can easily feed two or three people.

Another staple of the region’s cuisine is of course the hamsi (anchovy), of which the Black Sea is blessed with particularly tasty specimens. During the winter months, when anchovies are in season, one of our favorite dishes is hamsili pilav, a savory rice cake cloaked in thin hamsi fillets. With its currants and pine nuts, Klemuri’s hamsili pilav is a little dressed up compared to some of the village versions we’ve had, but it is the real deal.

Along with the Eastern Black Sea standards are a couple of dishes from the region that we rarely encounter. Silor is a variation on mantı dumplings in which yufka (a thicker version of phyllo pastry) is rolled up like a newspaper around a loose stuffing of finely ground beef and then cut into finger-width sections. The result is dressed, like mantı, in rich Trabzon butter and yogurt infused with red pepper flakes. The Georgian-style gulaş (goulash), or Gürcü yahnisi, looks like a stew deconstructed: one hunk of seriously soft beef and a wrist-thick carrot glazed in an oniony, peppery gravy redolent with the Georgian secret weapon, cilantro.

As if these regular menu items were not enough, some seasonal specials from the Laz kitchen that we’ve had at Klemuri include pepeçura, ekşaş, mafuş and several others that we’d never heard of before. You’ll also want to save room for a piece of Laz böreği, a sweet pastry filled with a scoop of pudding. Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Thinking of ordering the crepe to be on the safe side? Just open your mouth and say hamsi.

Get directionsExport as KML for Google Earth/Google MapsOpen standalone map in fullscreen modeCreate QR code image for standalone map in fullscreen modeExport as GeoJSONExport as GeoRSSExport as ARML for Wikitude Augmented-Reality browser

loading map - please wait...

Klemuri 41.034548, 28.982540 (Directions)
Address: Tel Sokak 2/1, Beyoğlu
Telephone: +90 212 292 3272
Hours: noon-11pm; closed Sunday

Related stories

May 25, 2017

Atila del Sur Comedor: Oaxaca's Guerrilla Kitchen

By Margret Hefner
Oaxaca -- Oaxaca, consistently ranked as one of the three poorest of Mexico’s 31 states, can also claim the title of having the country’s worst school system. Demonstrations and rallies by students, teachers and unions are a regular occurrence in Oaxaca City, causing frequent gridlock in the center of town. The walls of the city…
November 26, 2012

Asmalı Cavit: Special Orders Don’t Upset Them

By Istanbul Eats
Istanbul -- We can’t prove it, but we suspect a network of tunnels lies underground in Beyoğlu that connects most of the meyhanes of Asmalımescit and Nevizade Sokak to the same mediocre kitchen, resulting in unexceptional mezes at scores of venues in this dining district. Following a number of tips, our search for a standout…
March 18, 2013

Çukur Meyhane: When Liver Met Hamsi

By Istanbul Eats
Istanbul -- It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Meg Ryan’s big moment at Katz’s Deli in When Harry Met Sally, but a low-register, guttural moan of pleasure was detected from our table when we tasted the shredded celery root in yogurt, a house specialty meze at Çukur Meyhane. And we weren’t faking it. We stop into scores…