Ankara Serves Authentic Turkish Brunch
Ankara, 1320 19th St. in Dupont Circle, launched its weekend brunch on June 13. Brunch is a celebration of kahvalti – the famous Turkish breakfast – which is traditionally one of the most important elements of the Turkish cuisine.
Breakfast in Turkey is a traditional family gathering, explained Erin Gorman, who is Ankara’s marketing manager and whose husband, father-in-law and brother-in-law own the restaurant. “If you were in Turkey, you would sit down family-style for brunch, and you probably would literally fill up this table with dishes.”
Sometimes brunch last for hours, but at Ankara you only get two hours for the all-you-can-eat meal. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. It costs $37 per person and includes tea, a traditional Turkish breakfast accompaniment, and the choice of a mimosa, Bloody Mary or cranberry or orange juice with house vodka or gin.
As experienced in van kahvaltisi salons and restaurants throughout Turkey, brunch starts with van kahvaltisi, a selection of small plates of savory and sweet items including honey, sweet butter, cheeses – including feta and kashkaval, a tangy goat’s milk cheese — olives, fresh fruit jams, tomatoes, peppers, yogurt and fresh-baked pide flat bread to be shared with the table along with Turkish tea served in clear tulip cups. At Ankara, van kahvaltsi includes a chef’s selection of Turkish cheeses; olives marinated in extra virgin olive oil and herbs; labneh, a strained yogurt with za’atar; htipiti, roasted red peppers with feta cheese, thyme and olive oil; hummus; honey; jam; sweet butter; and pide. I liked spreading the labneh on the bread then drizzling honey on top to get a bite of tart and sweet.
Then diners can choose as many items as they like from the small plates on the menu. Dishes range from eggs ad omelets, meze, salads, pide and desserts.
One of my favorite dishes was çilbir, poached eggs with Turkish yogurt, paprika butter and sumac. The eggs were perfectly cooked and the paprika added just a touch of spice. Being in love with eggs benedict, I wanted some toast to dip into the eggs. There are also omelets that look like scrambled eggs and scrambled eggs that look like omelets filled with vegetables, different cheeses, ground beef and spiced beef sausage. The scrambled eggs and omelets were average and not the highlight of brunch.
The pides, which are more like eye-shaped pizzas, are much better than the eggs. My favorite was the peynirli pide made with feta and kasar cheese. The sucuklu pide with spiced Turkish beef sausage and kasar cheese was also tasty. The findik lahmacun is more like a traditional round pizza with beef and lamb spiced meat, onion and parsley.
There are also salads. Two tasty salads include the kapuz salatasi, a watermelon salad with baby tomatoes, pistachios, feta cheese and frisee; and the portakal salatasi, a seasonal citrus salad with red onions, mint, pomegranates and citrus vineaigrette.
Dessert is the best part of brunch and includes baklava, the traditional dessert made with phyllo dough, honey and walnuts; sütlaç, a rice pudding; and kayisi talisi – my favorite – dried apricots stuffed with crème and topped with pistachios.
While most of the egg dishes are lackluster, the van kahvaltisi, pides and desserts are definitely worth a visit. And the bottomless mimosas, Bloody Marys and cranberry/orange vodka and gin drinks make this brunch a great value.