Latif Guler to open Agora in Dupont Circle

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Latif Guler, a principal owner of Jack's in Dupont Circle, didn't like what his business at 1527 17th St. NW had become. "It started to be more of a bar than a restaurant," says the Turkish native. So he gathered his partners and proposed serving their clientele something different: "Let's give them food we know and make them happy."

Enter Agora, which is expected to open this month (Jack's closed in March) and focus on simply grilled seafood and vegetables. The fresh face will be Turkish in feeling and will sidestep the predictable, says Guler: "No hummus, no baba ghanouj, no tabbouleh." Instead, there will be sauteed spinach with yogurt, mashed fava beans and beet salad.

Guler has hired Rasit Gulsen, a 12-year veteran of Nizam's Restaurant in Vienna, to helm the kitchen and has brought in his father, Hasim, a chef from a town called Fo├ža on the Aegean coast of Turkey, to shape the menu. It will feature shrimp-stuffed calamari and fish, including branzino and sea trout, cooked in a newly installed wood-fired oven or atop a new charcoal grill.

The wine list will focus on juice from Portugal, Greece, Spain and Turkey. Malia Milstead, late of the Source, will serve as the restaurant's general manager and sommelier.

The 74-seat dining room will be packaged in exposed brick, finished concrete floors and a wood bar. ("Agora" is Greek for a gathering place or market.) A personal touch comes by way of the olive oil that Agora will use: It's from the Guler family farm back home.

-- Tom Sietsema

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