Turkish Lazuri Cafe
487 Cambridge St., Allston
With Kelley McLaughlin
Close your eyes. Imagine a sunny corner cafe with tiny outdoor tables, where there are always people milling about and chatting. A place that is open until 3 in the morning six days a week. The space is small, but the staff is neighborly and attentive, the menu is full of items you won't find anywhere else, and the bakery cases are full of colorful treats.
Are you on an international vacation? Is the smell of falafel drifting from a Mediterranean cafe?
Open your eyes. You're in Allston, Massachusetts, and this trip is courtesy of Turkish Lazuri Café, whose menu is a true culinary passport to Turkey.
Warm Turkish tea on a cold winter day:
The menu showcases Lazuri's dedication to using only the freshest ingredients. There is so much to try, even for a couple of vegetarians, that deciding what to order was not easy (if you are vegan, make sure to read the ingredient lists. Some items were incorrectly flagged as vegan).
After much debate, we ordered two Turkish teas ($1.95 - the first cup is free), one Turkish soda ($3.75), the Lazuri veggie bowl ($16.95), and the veggie pide ($18.95). Portions here are commensurate with the prices; this was enough food for two lunches for each of us.
This is the part of the review where we usually describe the ambience that we took in while we waited, but there was no wait time. Our drinks arrived right away, aromatic steam rising from the traditional tulip-shaped tea mugs and curling prettily in the wash of sunlight. Turkish tea is brewed over heat for an extended period of time, and as a result is generally rich in tannins.
Many drinkers offset the astringency by adding sugar, but we opted to drink it straight up, so we could better appreciate the flavor. Since we were served a lighter concentration, the tea was only mildly astringent, and its warmth was extremely welcome after coming in from the cold.
We ordered the orange flavored Turkish soda, which ended up being pretty much a standard orange soda, though at least one of us thought it tasted more truly orange‑y than some, which might be due to it containing a small amount of actual orange juice. Either way, it was good!
The Lazuri Veggie Bowl:
The Lazuri veggie bowl arrived within minutes of the tea. This option is a generous mezze platter, featuring falafel, veggie casserole, hummus, baba ghanoush, ezme, shepherd salad, pita, and cacik. As it neared us, we were enveloped in the tantalizing aroma of fresh herbs and spices, a symphony of flavors we were only too happy to experience.
The pita was warm and soft, and the falafel was crispy on the outside and still tender within. Neither was dried out at all. Everything was seasoned to perfection, accentuating the flavors of each ingredient instead of masking them, which speaks to their freshness. The veggie casserole and shepherd salad were vibrant with that freshness, each bite a celebration of produce. The ezme was spicy and fragrant, making us sip our tea and then drawing us back in for more. The cacick was tangy and bright. The baba ghanoush could not have been a more perfect balance of eggplant and sesame. And everything works so well together, you can have different flavors and textures in every bite you take.
A closer look at the Veggie pide:
The veggie pide was another huge portion. The bread was very thin but sturdy, and crispy. The roasted vegetables on top were well seasoned, with just enough cheese sprinkled over to add richness and saltiness. It had us saying all kinds of things as we tried to put our enjoyment into words. Consider; "pizza could never" and "this is food that makes you reconsider whether or not you've ever had it before."
Lazuri is located in the heart of Allston Village, surrounded by restaurants where you can get types of food that you cannot get anywhere else. It is so nice to see Lazuri carrying on with that tradition. From the mouth-watering freshness of our meal, to folk art that adorns the wall, to the quiet music that plays over the speakers, to the bite-sized baklava on the counter, our visit to Turkish Lazuri Café truly left us feeling transported.
Review from the Independent Review Crew.