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Kalbur March 8, 2010

Posted by Steven Bartus in Turkish Cuisine.

Although last week’s attempt to find superlative dining in Ankara came up short, I continued the search this weekend with a visit to Kalbur Fish Restaurant. You might be somewhat skeptical of the potential for good seafood in a city located about as far as one can get from a body of water in Turkey. In most cases, you’d be correct. But Kalbur is something very special. By combining traditional cooking techniques with an innovatory approach to seafood, it delivers a meal like no other in Ankara or even, dare I say, Turkey. Without question, Kalbur will change the way you look at Turkish cuisine. It is deserving of the laudatory enthusiasm often heaped upon it by journalists and food aficionados alike.

Situated deep in a quiet residential area of Oran, Kalbur is unassuming from the outside. Simple place settings and unadorned decor give a decidedly understated feel to the ten-table restaurant. The owner, Mehmet, and his wife, Bilen, have been cooking magic in this humble spot since 1990. They have developed a reputation for being a bit cold to their customers, something one might expect from artists overseeing their craft, but all is forgiven once you taste the food.

Kalbur specializes in taking Turkish classics, such as börek, köfte, kokoreç and mantı, and reinventing them with the wonders of the sea. You’re not going to find the typical whole-grilled-fish-on-a-plate offering that one would get on the Kordon in İzmir. Kalbur’s approach represents the type of creative license I so often yearn to see in other Ankara restaurants. More Turkish chefs need to test the balance between respecting culinary tradition and pursuing innovation in their work.

The portions at Kalbur are small and best enjoyed mezze-style with friends. It’s impossible to choose poorly, but some dishes are better than others. It’s also worth noting that the menu changes frequently with ebb and flow of Mehmet and Bilen’s inspiration, so expect some variation on what I describe here.

On Saturday, my friends and I ordered twelve courses covering the whole range of the night’s menu. The salmon dolma, seafood köfte, shrimp börek and grilled octopus were our favorites. Two days later I still find myself imagining their taste in my mouth. We would also recommend trying the artichoke hearts stuffed with a cheese-fish paste and the mixed-seafood calamari dolma. The stuffed mussels, octopus salad and seafood kokoreç were all quite tasty as well, but less remarkable than the others and could be excluded to save on cost. The seafood mantı might have been the only bust of the night, although you should try it for yourself if you generally enjoy traditional equivalent.

Kalbur is located in Oran Şehri Çarşı Merkezi C-3 Blok (Google Maps). It’s not the easiest place to find, but most cab drivers in the area should know the address. Additionally, Kalbur is closed on Mondays and reservations are required at least a week in advance (Telephone #: 312 490 50 01).

As one might expect for a restaurant of its caliber, Kalbur is not cheap. Our bill came to 275TL ($180 at 1.53TL/$), so about 75TL ($49) each for our four-person party after tip. Alcohol is served and rakı is certainly recommend to complement your fish. Do note that credit cards are not accepted.


1. Deniz Özger - March 8, 2010

This restaurant offers some of the best food i have ever eaten, i’m happy to see it on your site. These photos force me to go there as soon as possible.

2. özge - April 2, 2010

Kalbur is very famous not only in Ankara, in Türkiye…
Turkish best foodies suggested Kalbur.
Nice choice :))

3. Köşebaşı « Eating Ankara - June 30, 2010

[…] senses to places they’ve never been before. Such experiences are rare; I can think of only a handful during my time in Turkey. But when they do occur, these moments of gastronomic brilliance, your […]

4. Trilye « Eating Ankara - July 11, 2010

[…] got around to visiting one of the restaurants often cited as the best in the city: Trilye. Like Kalbur, it specializes in fish, which continues to strike me as amusing since we are in the middle of […]

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