Some months I go fancy, others I don’t. I definitely erred on the side of casual this month, going so far as having a grilled cheese sandwich at not one, but three restaurants. Take note, fancy restaurants, I don’t find many things more satisfying than butter, bread and cheese cooked to gooey perfection. Did I just call the new burger? Is it the grilled cheese? I sure hope it is.
A very good friend (and frequent dinner date) lived on 17th St. and P St. for a long time before moving to New York earlier this year. At least once a month we would meet at her house with no real dinner plan, walk out the front door and…stand. There were plenty of restaurants on 17th St., but none of them ever really struck us as compelling. It was all very poetic – restaurants, restaurants everywhere but not a bite to eat. There was Komi (too expensive), Sushi Taro (too long of a wait), and the slew of restaurant slash bar establishments that I could never really tell apart. Enter Agora to solve all my problems.
October wasn’t exactly a regular eating month for me. I was in China for two weeks (where I dined on delicious, delicious things that I won’t even try to identify), I spent a few days eating every random thing in my fridge to clean it out before my trip, and the rest of the month was spent mostly dedicated to Vegan Week. By all accounts it shouldn’t have been a hallmark eating month, at least not in any D.C. locations, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well I did eat.
Ah, the aniseed! Like cilantro, it has a taste you either love or hate. Absinthe, sambuca, pastis, raki are all anise-flavored spirits that inspire devotion or downright hatred. Me? I love licorice. So you know what side I fall on. Recently the mysteries of one of these aniseed derived drinks was revealed to me at Agora, the new Turkish restaurant on 17th Street NW in Dupont Circle. The charming bar manager, Ismail Uslu, was kind enough to let me sample some raki, Turkey’s official national drink. It was a fascinating experience and one I hope you’ll share.
But what is raki exactly? Like ouzo and grappa, raki is produced by distilling the solid remains of fruit after it’s been pressed, commonly raisins, figs, or grapes. Then it’s flavored with aniseed. Raki can be drunk straight (called “sec”), in which case it’s clear, or diluted with cold water, which turns it milky white. Ice cubes can also be added after dilution according to personal preference. Agora stocks six raki of different styles and distillation levels so you can sample several to see which one you prefer. I tried Efe, which is triple-distilled from grape remains.
Ismail showed me the traditional way to serve raki. Two glasses were placed on the bar, one with plain raki about a third of the way full, and the other with water. From a separate pitcher he poured chilled water into the raki which resulted in the magical transformation known in Turkey as “the lion’s milk” – turning the raki that beautiful opaque color. Then he placed a bowl of ice cubes down for me to add as I liked.
“It’s a slow drink,” he said, “sip some raki, then some water. It’s not like shots.” Continue reading →
Starting April 30th, Dupont Circle will be getting a new Greek and Turkish restaurant. Agora will feature small plates prepared on the wood-fired oven and charcoal fired BBQ grill, and overseen by Turkish born Chef Rasit Gulsen, formerly of Nizam’s Restaurant in Vienna, VA.
The restaurants menu will feature Turkish and Greek fare reflecting owner, Latif Guler’s, heritage growing up in the small town of Foca, Turkey. The restaurant will highlight wines and beer from the Mediterranean regions of Turkey and Greece, and will serve a nice selection of Ouzo, an anise-flavored spirit widely consumed in Greece.
The two-story, 170-seat restaurant located at 1527 17th Street, NW, (aka the “doomed” spot that was formerly Jack’s, Le Pigalle, Peppersm, etc.) has been transformed to a Mediterranean oasis by Brie Husted Architecture and features a collection photos that capture the everyday life of picturesque Foca. Other features an upstairs expansion complete with 48 seats that can be used for private dining and a sidewalk café that can accommodate 34 guests for both the lunch and dinner service.