Agora (which means "meeting place" in Greek) Bar and Bistro is tucked away in a casual storefront, next to the movie theater in Suffolk's growing Harbour View neighborhood. My date and I had secured a reservation mid-week, and arrived a few minutes shy of 6:30 p.m. The door led us into the bar, where a couple sat in animated conversation with the bartender. A laughing waitress cheerfully paused in her conversation, welcomed us, and invited us in. The empty dining room ran parallel to the narrow bar, and she offered up any table while going to get the wine list.
The room had that hip-yet-funky vibe, with warm walls bringing color to the shimmery grey tiles beneath. Decorative tribal-style masks grinned next to mischievous French posters, while strategically placed mirrors gave a sense of space. I picked up my menu, bound in an old-fashioned photo album, and began perusing. Offerings held a lot of surf, a little turf and a smattering of pasta dishes, not to mention a very lengthy martini list.
After a slight mis-hap with our requested bottle, the waitress returned with our next choice, the Tittarelli Tempranillo Reserva 2004 ($31). Red, rich and filled with smooth tannins, it was a busty little quaff that held a nice finish. No specials were being offered that evening, so Dave took care of placing our orders, while I sought out the bathroom.
The bathroom was wide, very clean and busy with more eclectically-stylized posters. More eye-catching was the miniature DVD player, running through classic black & white flicks.
Returning to my seat, I noticed the sun glinting off the wrought-iron style chairs-- or rather, lighting up the blanket of dust running across. My eyes wandered to the black tablecloths, many of which were stained and ripped-- even our table had several of these battle scars.
We soon had an appetizer to keep cozy with. Five coconut encrusted-shrimp ($10) came on an oversized white plate, nestled against field greens and festooned with a vivid purple orchid. Less identifiable was the container of thick pink sauce, which our waitress identified as the strawberry coulis. I spooned out a taste, finding it sweet and rather yogurty. The butterflied shrimp were rather soft and bland, even beneath the very golden crust, so I tried a dip in the coulis. It's much as you imagine eating coconut-flecked popcorn-style shrimp dipped into strawberry yogurt would taste like.
At this point, it was becoming slightly difficult for Dave and I to hear each other. Even though the dining room was still empty, the bar patrons and staff were engaged in high-volume conversations and raucous laughter, which steadily drowned out the cozy, intimate lounge music.
When our waitress returned bearing gorgeous plates, I felt a thrill of excitement. My Hurricane Diablo ($15) was a massive portion of pasta, once again decked out with another purple orchid. Slightly chewy sun-dried tomato linguine held a conglomeration of perfectly cooked scallops, shrimps, clams and mussels. They were covered in a brandy red pepper marinara that lacked little, if any, character: the generous shavings of Parmesan did little to help.
Dave had fun picking an assortment of sushi from the a la cart list. The arrangement was truly breathtaking, a rainbow of pink, white, yellow, black, orange and purple (courtesy of the seemingly standard orchid). Spicy tuna, scallions and caviar formed the Agora Roll ($10), topped off with smooth pink rectangles of tuna sashimi. The Nitro Roll ($6) was its more basic cousin, simply tuna and scallions rolled up tight. The Dragon Roll ($9) indeed bore resemblance to that mythical creature. Cucumber, crab and caviar were wrapped with rice and avocado, striped with broiled freshwater eel. Rather than going over the individual flavors of each roll, we came to the same conclusion for each: not flavorful, not fresh in taste, and a real disappointment considering the artful construction.
The bar noise continued to spill in. The dining room, aside from us, remained empty. The waitress came to take our plates, and I asked if we could perhaps try desert. With a sorrowful smile, she replied that they didn't have any, and left to get our bill.
Lucky for us, there was a Cogan's Pizza right next door. We each enjoyed a happy slice, then sped off into the night.
Agora World Fusion Bar & Bistro
5860 Harbour View Boulevard, Suite 5A, Suffolk
Specialties: fusion-style entrees
Price range: appetizers: $9-$12; entrees: $13-$28; martinis: $8-$9
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Friday; 5 p.m.-12 a.m. Saturday; closed Sundays
Alcohol: beer, wine, full bar
Smoking: yes, at the bar only
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Payment: cash, credit cards
Noise level: conversational in the dining room, noisy in the bar
Atmosphere: upscale casual
Additional Information: extensive martini list
Star rating: food 2 1/2, atmosphere 3 1/2, service 3
(out of five stars)