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Feb 28
Reviews (Eats)
Mohti: All That Laz

(Editor’s note, 2015: We’re sorry to report that Mohti has permanently closed.)

“My heart starts pounding when a pregnant lady enters the room,” said Hüseyin, the artist turned owner/operator of Mohti, a new “Laz Meyhane” in the back of the backstreets of the Asmalımescit area. While this might sound to some like the unsavory confession of a man with an exotic fetish, to us it was a breath of fresh air, redolent with the old-style charm of a classic meyhane patron, something that’s increasingly harder to come across these days.

There was a time when every meyhane around here had a true character at the helm, someone who knew how to work the crowd, comp a drink and indulge in the art of hospitality every night. Now, sadly, as Asmalımescit and other traditional dining zones go upmarket, the only trace of that old-school proprietorship is found in yellowed photos on wall.  In this context, Hüseyin – a boisterous host in an exceedingly sterile market – is almost as odd a fit as Mohti’s concept: thoroughly home-style Black Sea cooking in a meyhane setting.

Hüseyin’s confession was elicited one night recently when we showed up at his meyhane with a pregnant lady in tow. The plan was to have a quick dinner, but Hüseyin (pictured below) wasn’t having that. He wanted to see the pregnant lady moan with delight over multiple courses. So our modest order quickly turned into a Laz tour de force featuring nearly every item on the menu and one, which happened to be our favorite of the night, that was prepared for the kitchen staff’s meal.

In previous reviews of Laz restaurants we’ve stated our belief that the Laz are actually a long-lost clan from Alabama – hence their affinity for what seems like American-style soul food and fiddle music. And like a true Southern diner, the mark of a Black Sea restaurant comes in the breadbasket. If there’s cornbread in that basket, the place is probably legit. At Mohti, the bread offering was set to a higher frequency, with fresh chunks of hamsi ekmek alongside the cornbread. Truth be told, Turkish cornbread can often be a bit dry and dense, but when laced with fresh anchovies, it comes alive, as it did at Mohti. Following the hamsi ekmek came turşu kavurma, a plate of sautéed pickled vegetables, and a Black Sea garden omelet made with kale, leeks and hamsi filets called kaygana. A skillet of muhlama – a fondue-like dish made out of cheese melted in clarified butter – followed, requiring us to pull and stretch the long glistening strands of cheese, which we wound up on a fork as if they were pasta.

And then came the surprise final course in the form of large steaming dumplings. Before Hüseyin said the word khinkali, we were already having flashbacks of Georgian feasts we’d enjoyed in Tbilisi, Moscow and Tashkent. Even if dumplings are simple and standard in construction, they always leave a strong impression on us. Dumplings, particularly Georgian ones, have personality and Mohti’s bulky fragrant bundles filled with coarsely ground lamb and stock were supremely evocative of the Caucasus.

Basking in the khinkali afterglow, we should have called it quits, but no Black Sea feast is complete without at least one plate of fresh hamsi lightly battered in cornmeal and fried. Ours appeared and were devoured in what seemed like an instant, leading to the arrival of a second order.

The pregnant lady admitted to Hüseyin, now sitting at our table, that it was the best hamsi she had ever eaten. He swooned. Pregnant lady excluded, we all had another drink and clinked glasses to the novel concept of a Laz meyhane and to the success of one of Beyoğlu’s newest meyhane dons, Hüseyin Bey.

Address: Orhan Adlı Apaydın Sokak 15/A, Kat 2, Asmalımescit
Telephone: 212-249-7181

(photos by Ansel Mullins)

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6 Responses to “ Mohti: All That Laz ”
  1. This was the best/most unique meal I have had in Istanbul in years. Good value, excellent food and great service.

    Only complaint is that every patron was smoking.

  2. We decided to go to this restaurant based on your recommendation but it didn’t live up to your good reviews. Although it was cozy and friendly – almost every table had smokers and as non-smokers it was hard to tolerate. The owners seemed to completely ignore the non-smoking law. Luckily they sat as in a corner table where less smoke travelled to. The hamsi bread was probably the newest interesting thing we tasted but otherwise salad was pretty standard and the fried hamsi no better than other fish restaurant. We ordered the melted cheese and were surprised how bland and uninteresting it was. The waiter noticed we didn’t eat it and at least was gracious about it and did not charge us. I would not go back to this place although it was nice to go to Asmalismecit and try something different as well as be in a hidden street on the side.

  3. Soberana- the smoking ban is flouted in this place. That needs to be said. Bland muhlama is a surprise though. It is just cheese butter and cornmeal, but usually a fairly rich trio. It sounds like an off night in the kitchen. Sorry this reco didn’t pan out.

  4. Did this place ever reopen?

  5. After reading this article, a couple of friends and I sought out the restaurant. However, after a couple confused walks around the block we couldn’t find any sign of it. Bakkal workers, çaycıs and staff from other restaurants didn’t entirely recognize the name either. Did it ever reopen?

  6. Thanks for your note. Very sadly, the restaurant has permanently closed. We’ve amended the review to note this.

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