Turkish Cuisine, Culture & Hospitality Served up at Ankara:
Ankara opened this spring in the former Levante’s space on 19th Street in Dupont Circle. Owned and operated by the Aslanturk family, Ankara has set about introducing the District to Turkish cuisine and its many influences, along with Turkish culture and hospitality.
Start your meal at Ankara with some good ol’ bread and spreads. In this case, house-made pide bread and Turkish dips such as Babaganoush, with eggplant and tomatoes, Ezme, a spicy tomato spread, Kopoglu, sauteed eggplant with a yogurt garlic sauce, or Havuc Tarama, with carrot and yogurt.
The rest of the large menu combines classic Turkish dishes along with modern twists utilizing signature Turkish ingredients, such as eggplants, which are ubiquitous in its cuisine, tomatoes, lamb, yogurt, feta and peppers.
There’s a wide selection of both hot and cold meze dishes. Standouts include the Icli Kofte, a spicy bulgur kofte stuffed with ground beef and a red onion paste, and the Sigara Boregi, a crispy filo dough roll stuffed with feta cheese and herbs.
There’s also Mucver, or zucchini fritters, grilled haloumi cheese, Zeytinyagli Enginar, a potato-stuffed artichoke, Yaprak Dolmasi, rolled grape leaves stuffed with rice and pine nuts, and many other choices. You’ll also find salads, and a range of flat breads, made with that fresh pide bread, running the gamut from savory meat flatbreads, to veggie loaded or cheese options.
Entrees include various kebabs and Turkish grilled specialties. One popular choice hails from the Turkish Gaziantep region, Ali Nazik. It features tender, juicy slow cooked lamb served over a bed of smoked pureed eggplant and yogurt sauce, and charred peppers.
To drink, a range of Turkish wines and beers are amongst the offerings, as well as Raki, an anise-flavored spirit and staple of Turkish meals and nightlife. Known as “Lion’s Milk”, it turns a cloudy, opaque white when mixed with water. Ankara has several varieties available to sample, and apparently a special song they like to play while imbibing.
Dessert is a must here. You can’t pass up on the indulgent, decadent Baklava, with ground pistachios, and another good bet is the Kayisi Tatlisi, cream-stuffed dried apricots. Wash them down with either thick Turkish coffee or Turkish tea.
For the unadventurous, the menu is still easy to navigate. You could leave quite satisfied with hummus, pide bread, and kebabs, for instance. But there’s much more to the menu and cuisine here, and you’d be wise to try something new to see what it’s really about.
Of course, DC remains a brunch-first town, and you’re going to need to check out the Turkish breakfast feast, known as Van Kahvalti, that’s served up here on the weekends. Enjoy a wide range of savory and sweet small plates, spreads and accompaniments, before moving ahead to your choice of eggs, omelets, flat breads, salads and meze. Endless plates and bottomless mimosas or bloody Marys cost $37 per person.
As they say: Afiyet Olsun — Bon Appetit.