Serving authentic Turkish cuisine, Ankara is adding a new taste to Dupont Circle’s tremendous sampling of world flavors.
I was sold the moment a loaf of warm Turkish bread arrived at our table alongside a spread of olives, olive oil and crumbled feta cheese.
If you have bread left over, order a dish of hummus for $7. Chefs arrive in the kitchen at 6 a.m. each day to puree pounds of chickpeas for the fresh hummus they serve throughout the day. It’s creamy and fresh, with just the right amount of bite, no doubt giving Roti a run for its money.
Named after Turkey’s capital, Ankara opened this May at prime real estate on 19th and Sunderland streets. Each afternoon Ankara’s patio front and indoor lounge are populated with D.C.’s business class, suited up, breaking away from a hard day’s work for a wholesome lunch. At night, the open seating welcomes families and other large groups to enjoy traditional Turkish delights, the traditional Turkish way.
The $12.50 meat kebabs were balanced out with a side of cucumber yogurt and your choice of plain rice or fries. The meat was tender and the peppers were crisp after being soaked in yogurt and charred over an open flame.
Ankara distinguishes itself from other Turkish restaurants, like Ezme in Dupont Circle and Meze in Adams Morgan, by offering a sit-down experience, co-owner Erin Gorman said. Their menu highlights entree-sized plates, as opposed to hot and cold meze small plates, she said.
“The hallmarks of Turkish cuisine are freshness and a few stand-out ingredients,” Gorman said. “It’s not a cuisine that’s heavy on 15 exotic spices. There are some dishes where the complexity of the flavor is coming from the vegetables themselves.”
This is true of the $12 Lahmacun, or flatbread. Lamb and beef are mixed with tomatoes, onions and parsley and are piled on top of Turkish pide bread — an exciting way to experience basic ingredients. The pide serves as a soft base with a crunchy crust, similar to a naan-based pizza.
Gorman is the wife of Utku Aslanturk who co-owns the restaurant with his father and brother. The family arrived in the U.S. 15 years ago and worked primarily in construction. After working in the restaurant industry abroad and in the U.S., they jumped at the opportunity to open Ankara when Levante’s, the Mediterranean restaurant that previously occupied the space, closed in January.
With large windows and abundant chandeliers, Ankara is open and bright. The deep maroon walls, lined with bottles of wine, add a level of sophistication to the otherwise homey vibe.
End your meal on a delightfully sweet note with $8 Baklava — a puff pastry dessert seasoned with crumbled pistachios and a warm syrup — which will leave you feeling full and satisfied.
This article appeared in the September 21, 2015 issue of the Hatchet.