WASHINGTON — Gone are the days when a trip to London, Paris and Rome rounded out a European itinerary. These days, it’s all about Istanbul.
If you’re low on vacation days or can’t finance a plane ticket, don’t fret: You don’t need to fly halfway around the world to get a taste of Turkey. In fact, the only thing you need to book is brunch.
Ankara, a traditional Turkish restaurant that opened in May in Dupont Circle, is now serving Washington’s favorite weekend pastime. But unlike most local brunch establishments, you won’t find your typical slabs of bacon, stacks of pancakes and bottomless beverages on the menu.
What you will find is an authentic culinary experience, served over multiple courses.
In Turkey, breakfast is a big deal, says Erin Gorman, who serves as Ankara’s marketing director. (Her husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law are the owners of the restaurant.) It’s a time where family members come together and prepare for the day.
A typical Turkish breakfast consists of fresh bread, marinated olives, fresh vegetables, a few different cheeses, homemade jams, butters and other Mediterranean mezze plates, such as hummus and yogurt.
“It’s better than Cheerios, right?” Gorman jokes.
Egg dishes such as menemen (soft scrambled eggs with tomatoes, peppers and onions) and scrambled eggs with sucuk (spiced beef sausage) are also morning meal staples.
Similar to D.C., dining out has become increasingly popular in Turkey — especially when it comes to brunch.
“Brunch has taken off in Turkey in a really big way, and now there are restaurants all over the place,” Gorman says. These restaurants call themselves “van kahvaltisi salons.” And they don’t mess around with their spreads. Gorman says the food brought to the table is enough to feed a large party.
“If you were in Turkey, you would sit down, family-style, for brunch … and you probably would literally fill up this table with dishes,” she says.
And it’s a similar scene at Ankara’s brunch. A selection of sweet and savory dishes is sent to every table, including the chef’s selection of Turkish cheeses, fresh bread, marinated olives, roasted red peppers with feta cheese, strained yogurt and honey, jams and butter.
Then, diners can choose as many dishes as they like from a selection of eggs and omelets, salads, flat breads and desserts — a list of 20 items in total.
In addition to menemen and scrambled eggs with sucuk, the brunch menu includes calamari, karpuz salatası (watermelon, feta and frisee salad), sigara boregi (cheese and herb filled phyllo dough), fındık lahmacun (flat bread with beef and lamb minced meat and onion), and baklava and cream-stuffed apricots for desert.
The cost for brunch at Ankara is $37 per person. It includes tea — a very traditional component in Turkish cuisine — and a mimosa or Bloody Mary, which Gorman says is a nod to the American brunch, since you won’t see booze on the breakfast table in Turkey.
Go hungry and you will certainly get your money’s worth. Plus, you’ll save a whole lot on airfare.