The most anxiously-awaited restaurant opening in Pleasanton in the last couple of years, at least for me, was Agora Bistro, which took over the former Bert’s Hofbrau and Steakhouse space at 443 Main Street in late December. I was in Nebraska for Xmas and New Year’s and missed the opening, but made it there as soon as I could.
It was well worth the wait. I’d poked my head in a couple of times during remodeling, hoping for a firm opening date, and asking about the menu. I finally got a look inside the other day, and came back for dinner.
The high-ceilinged brick front room remains the same, as does the glassed-in “greenhouse” back room (which is one of the nicest places in town to eat at sunset). The new owners have warmed the place up some, and the former bar/hofbrau counter in the front room is now an open kitchen, and the bar has been moved to the back.
The menu covers the classics of Greek and Turkish cuisine, with a selection of hot and cold appetizers — including baked prawns as well as the expected spreads like tzatziki, hummus, and baba ghanoush, as well as spanakopita, feta with olives, and dolmades. Entrees include souvlaki, moussaka, pastitsia, lamb chops, and beef short ribs.
I started with mucver, a Turkish dish of zucchini and dill pancakes with yogurt and cucumber sauce, which was delicious. For a main course, I had kofte, which were wonderfully-seasoned beef and lamb patties cooked on the grill, with rice pilaf and a small chopped salad of tomatoes, onion, parsley, and red cabbage in a Mediterranean vinaigrette. The kofte were tender and flavorful and were served with their natural grill juices. With the main course I had a glass of Greek red table wine from Tsantali. Dessert was Turkish-style baklava, lighter and less overwhelmingly sweet than other versions I’ve had, and I enjoyed it with a cup of strong — but decaffeinated — espresso. (Turkish coffee is also available.)
Service was crisp, polite, and efficient. By mid-dinner all 10 tables in the back room where I was seated were full, and the room, which had often seemed cold and dark at night in previous restaurant incarnations because of the expanses of glass, felt warm and inviting, and the people at the next table were conversing with their neighbors. There was a discussion of the difference between Ouzo and Sambuca (alas, Agora at present only has a beer and wine license so the question was moot). As I left I noticed all but two of the 12 tables in the front room were also occupied, and there were several parties waiting at the door.
Agora Bistro looks like a big hit and is a very welcome addition to Main Street.