WASHINGTONTIMES.COM
WASHINGTONTIMES.COM

3/5 stars

$$

Agora, a Mediterranean fusion restaurant in Dupont Circle, is a neighborhood gem. Stepping inside the red-bricked interior, one finds a relaxed but polished setting. Similarly, the food served is rustic yet elegant. The restaurant’s menu, while quite expansive, consists almost completely ofmezze. These  small plates of food make it easier for customers in smaller groups to sample a greater array of Mediterranean cuisine.

Our party of two was offered bottled water and piping hot pita bread soon after we sat down. Nothing in a restaurant makes a better first impression on me and my stomach than some fresh bread. For starters, I opted for the beet and orange salad while my friend chose imam bayildi, an eggplant stuffed with onions, tomatoes, pine nuts and garlic. The beet and orange salad was extremely light but packed a flavorful punch, with the namesake ingredients providing a refreshing contrast to the heavier lemon mashed potatoes and onions. On the other hand,  the stuffed eggplant was neither as strong nor as interesting in flavor as the salad, but it still made a more-than-acceptable appetizer dish.

For our main course, we ordered a plate of steamed vegetables consisting of artichokes and seasonal veggies, seared scallops and midye tava (fried mussels). The scallops were the best of the three, glazed with tamarind and served with saffron yogurt sauce. The sauce and spices combined to create a dish that was texturally flavorful, yet does not overpower the freshness of the scallops. The fried mussels retained a great natural seafood flavor as they were only lightly fried in olive oil and a splash of beer — unlike at some restaurants, where foods are smothered in batter until  all the diner can taste is Budweiser. We were, however, let down by the veggies. This dish was nothing special, and I probably could have made it myself in my little townhouse kitchen. It seemed the only ingredients were vegetables, lemon juice, olive oil and parsley.

Overall, it seemed that Agora’s vegetable dishes were a bit hit-or-miss, but all the seafood we had was delicious. All ingredients were fresh and packed with flavor; in fact, despite the small portions, I was so full by the end of the meal that I couldn’t even finish the delicious mussels, begrudgingly giving the rest to my friend. The restaurant also looks out for the dietary needs of their clients, with all except one dish either gluten- or dairy-free. The prices are also quite reasonable, with the fried mussels costing as much as a Wisey’s Hot Chick.

Only about a seven-minute walk away from the Dupont Circle GUTS bus stop, Agora is great for all group sizes, but especially for groups of two or three since the plates are small and allow for sampling of dishes. If you’re looking for simple, unpretentious and relatively affordable Mediterranean cuisine, then Agora is your pick.

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