October 2, 2015
Ankara in Dupont Circle; Ambar at Barracks Row; Bibiana Welcomes a New Chef; Mason Social Pleases the Southern Palate
Ankara is the New Turk on the Block
Sorry to report we missed out on September’s Turkish Heritage Month. Maybe you did too. No need to fret. Here’s where you can get your fix. Ankara is located on a quiet block in the center of DC’s upscale Golden Triangle neighborhood. It’s a family-run restaurant with a pretty patio for dining al fresco. Opened this spring by the Aslanturk family who hail from Ankara, it celebrates food from the heart of Turkey – both traditional and nicely tweaked.
There are plenty of cold and hot mezzes to choose from like Sigara Borgei (feta and herbs folded into crispy phyllo), Karides Guvec (baked shrimp in tomato and garlic sauce) and Midye Tavasi (fried mussels in walnut tarator sauce). Kebabs of all description are rendered smoky from the wood-fired oven as are the salmon and branzino, both delicately rendered. Be sure to try the pide – a Turkish flatbread version of pizza.
A newly launched brunch is lavish and delicious in the tradition of kahvalti – Turkish breakbast. To begin there is a broad selection of savory and sweet items including honey, cheeses, olives, fresh fruit jams, labne, and more with lamb stuffed flatbreads and salads. Try the portakal salatasi – a refreshing salad with oranges, mint, pomegranate and red onions. Dessert doesn’t disappoint either. Don’t miss the best baklava in town or, on a lighter note, apricots stuffed with crème and sprinkled with pistachios. Afiyet olsun!
Ankara is at 1320 19th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036. www.AnkaraDC.net
Ambar is not a hot spot for romantic dining. Rather it’s a gather-round-the-table with friends and family kind of place – best for eating in a group of no less than four. All the better to try the many flavors of the region, which is the way they eat at home – at least that’s what Executive Chef Ivan Zivkovic would like you to know.
There is so much to love about this Barracks Row restaurant with its Balkan food both hearty and grandma-earthy as well as its nicely chosen Bulgarian wines. While on a trip to the area in CNN’s No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain proclaimed the Bibich R6 Riserva was his favorite wine there. The peppery zin-style wine is on the menu here along with a selection of the country’s sought after fruit-based rakias whose origins date back to the XI century.
Be sure to order a basket of the knockout housemade breads called somun (the fried sourdough is heavenly) with a selection of spreads. You can’t go wrong with any one of them – from the familiar hummus and ajvar (red pepper and eggplant spread) to the lesser known smoked trout and urnebes (made with aged cow’s cheese, ajvar and chili flakes). To die for! We particularly loved a salad of organic cabbage, carrot, radish and red cabbage called Fresh From the Garden and all of the housemade sausages.
A great way to experience all Ambar has to offer, go for The Unlimited Brunch or Bottomless Balkan dinner. www.AmbarRestaurant.com
The Changing of the Guard at Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca
Recent hire, Executive Chef Jake Addeo, is putting his imprimateur on Bibiana’s menu. With a clear vision of lightening up its authentic Italian fare. A three-course dinner he created reflected summer’s bounty and showed the direction he intends to take the restaurant in future.
Celebrating its six years in Penn Quarter, the stunning restaurant has some new fall offerings during Happy Hour – especially its bargain priced cocktails and wines priced a $7.01, and bar snacks in the sleek lounge.
Try the Cure Royale, made with Prosecco, Lillet Blanc and blackberry liqueur; Old Fashioned made with McKenna 10-year old bourbon and Angostura bitters, and the Moscow Mule made with Sobieski vodka, ginger beer and lime. Look for a la carte bar snacks such as the Carrot Funnel Cake with Stracchino cheese and gooseberries; Calamari with charred poblano remoulade and smoked paprika; Sesame Hummus with miso, black sesame and grilled pita bread, and Duck Confit Steam Buns with cherry puree and butternut squash. www.BibianaDC.com
Mason Social is a Welcome Addition to Old Town Alexandria
Earlier this year a nifty restaurant opened in a derelict old spot in the Parker-Gray neighborhood just off the hubbub of King Street. And local childhood pals Chad and his brother Justin Sparrow (Chad’s the partner with the culinary school education), Larry Watson and Teddy Kim have given the place an air of timeless charm.
Old brick walls, decorated with vintage photographs of the city’s 19th century Belle Pre Bottling Company, blend with wood tables and metal chairs in a spare but cozy ambiance. Mason jar lights dangle from plumbing pipes and a large mural features scenes of the factory that once sat across the street.
Joseph Lennon is the Executive Chef of this Southern influenced menu. Lennon has worked at the nearby Vermillion under Anthony Chittum, Urbana under noted chef John Critchley, and most recently at the Four Seasons Hotel’s Bourbon Steak. Though it fancies itself ‘Modern American’, a term much slung around to describe a mélange of comfort foods, there is a firm nod to the South – as in B&B’s Louisiana BBQ chicken, fried green tomatoes and braised kale. Beef marrow hamburgers made with beef sourced from from Roseda Farms, share the menu with more refined offerings at dinner.
Tony Burke oversees the beverage program and it is ambitious. His original cocktails and bespoke punches help fuel the bar’s popularity. Try the Brose Punch made with bourbon, blueberry black tea and, mint and lemon. Local breweries like Dogfish of Delaware, Duclaw and Flying Dog of Baltimore, and Fair Winds of Lorton, VA are represented and rotated by season along with Alexandria’s Port City beers. Craft cocktails are seasonal too. www.Mason-Social.com
Photo credit – Jordan Wright