It’s a bit of an understatement to say that Dupont Circle is better known for its bars than its Turkish food. But Latif Guler, the owner of the soon-to-open Agora on 17th Street, hopes to change that.
And if anyone can, it’s certainly the owner of the popular bar Jack’s, which closed earlier this year so that Guler, a native of Turkey, could focus on what he loves.
“Before, it was more like a bar,” he says. “Burgers, steaks, not a foodie place. Here, I want to educate people. I want them to learn about the food and wine of my country.”
The mission is reflected in the restaurant’s offerings. Chef Ghassan Jarrouj has crafted a selection of entrees and small plates reflective of the “vast” influences on Ottoman cuisine, including Asian and North African, with an emphasis on vegetables and seafood.
”It’s about 60 percent plant-focused, 20 percent seafood, 20 percent meat,” explains general manager and wine director Malia Milstead.
Milstead, an alum of Wolfgang Puck’s Source restaurant here in the city, is also working with bar director Ismail Uslu to create a drink menu centered around Turkish liquors and ingredients. The bar offers six different types of anise-flavored raki, as well as cocktails that highlight Turkish ingredients, such as one that uses Turkish figs.
“No one else has these cocktails,” she says.
When the restaurant, slated to open on May 24 after a few delays, finally seats its first customers, Guler is confident that he has a strong alternative to the bars in the area -- or to other Middle Eastern restaurants in the District, for that matter.
“No hummos,” he says. “No baba ghanoush ... And as far as what we were like before? We are 100 percent different. Not 99 percent. One hundred.”