Turkish Restaurant Ankara in Dupont Relaunches as Ala
The first few warm days in Washington, DC are usually my cue to start dreaming of outdoor activities. And what better outdoor activity is there than bottomless brunch?
Ankara, a Turkish-inspired restaurant in Dupont Circle closed its doors in February for a brand refresh. On March 1, the same team opened an updated concept: ala.
The new concept offers dinner, bottomless brunch, and a unique extensive menu of after-dinner drinks and dessert. I was so thrilled to be invited to try to brunch last weekend before ala opened to the public. Seeing a restaurant reinvent itself just in time for cherry blossom season was so special after a year of COVID.
The Mediterranean region, with an emphasis on the eastern cultures, inspires much of what you’ll find on the menu. The menu specifically showcases dishes inspired by The Levant which includes the countries: Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Jordan, Isreal, and Palestine. The name ala comes from Turkish expression meaning “a mix of all the colors.” This idea represents the journey we are all on to discover the tastes of different areas while inviting all backgrounds to join the table.
It’s also worth noting that ala has more than enough options to keep the vegans in your group happy. These dishes are noted on the menu.
The bottomless brunch at ala is a great value at $29 for food and $39 to include drinks. And the drink selection is incredible! Order your classic mimosas and (spicy!) Bloody Marys plus champagne, draft beer, and house wines. You can also order beautiful cocktails with whiskey, tequila, gin, or rum. Coffee and Turkish teas are also included.
For starters, don’t miss the harissa hummus and grilled olives. I am generally not a fan of olives but these smoky little guys were the perfect starter. For a lighter option, try the fennel and tomato salad. The shawander, a somewhat sweet beef dip, also pairs nicely with the pita.
Next up, the spinach bourekas had the most perfect light and flakey crust. The beet sauce on the falael also added a nice flavor that was less sweet than the dip. The manakish, a crowd favorite, consisted of feta cheese, truffle oil, and garlic.
The Main Event
What is brunch without eggs? If you are looking for some meat options at this brunch, try the Dukkah Benedict with short rib. The Menemen was described as “ala’s version of a scrambled egg” – it tasted light and fluffy with strong flavor from the peppers and tomatoes. The chard flatbread (vegan) with chickpea puree was also a fun, light version of a typically more hearty dish.
For dessert, don’t miss the pistachio baklava. Eating baklava made with pistachios was a special treat for me because I am used to making it with walnuts. Walnuts are more popular in the Greek version of baklava which is how my Yaya (my Greek grandmother) used to teach me. But no matter which baklava you are more familiar with, this one is delicious!
We also enjoyed the crispy caraway toast with spicy chocolate sauce which wasn’t too sweet. It was described to us as something similar to French Toast.
Another stand-out toward the end of our visit was the two cocktails. We mentioned we like whiskey so the bar whipped us up two drinks: Kerasi and the Gardens of Elláda. Just in time for cherry blossom season, these two pink cocktails were light and refreshing. So if you are just stopping by for a drink after enjoying a spring walk, the ala bar offers a variety of seasonal cocktails.
Ala is open for dinner and weekend brunch with both indoor and outdoor seating. There is an 8% service charge during COVID for all party sizes but this is not a gratuity. Reservations recommended.