“Food is about making an interaction with ingredients. If you talk to them, they will always tell a story.” –José Andrés
Walking up to Zaytinya was inviting by design, the stone steps leading up to a beautiful and colorful art piece set up the stage to enter the bright and spacious two story streamlined restaurant that waited behind the glass doors. Greeted with smiling faces behind the hostess stand was the precursor to the evenings superb service.
With woodened tables, chairs and booths; the lively chatter and clanging of forks to plates naturally filled the open space. The waiter for the evening, John, came to the table and took initial drink orders of water and brought fresh pita bread with pomegranate molasses that created a festive “Z” on the bottom of a ramekin filled with Greek olive oil. This dining experience was a special visit to not only experience the dishes that have become house favorites but to sample a few dishes for the upcoming DC Restaurant Week. Restaurant week is August 11th to 17th and is a week that all foodies look forward to. Participating restaurants provide a prix-fixe menu for either lunch, dinner or both. Zaytinya proved to be well prepared.
Zaytinya manager Brian Zaslavsky, greeted the table and gave a little background as to what to expect for the evening. The way Zaytinya’s meals are served are in small plates that are best shared family style or tapas. Zaslavsky suggests that diners come in with an open mind and willingness to share. Zaslavsky recommends ordering about three or four small plates for every two people.
Head Chef Micheal Costa went out of his way to create dishes that personified Zaytinya. Most dishes would be from their Restaurant Week menu and others were from the original menu. Starting the evening off was Hommus- freshly pureed chickpeas with garlic and tahini drizzled with olive oil and dusted with fresh paprika. Elies Tis Elladas- Greek olives marinated in oregano and Greek olive oil. Fattoush- Tomato, cucumber, red onion, green pepper, radish, pita chips, and pomegranate vinegar dressing. Htipiti- marinated roasted red peppers, feta cheese, thyme and Greek olive oil. The freshness of the ingredients were outstanding! All of these dishes were served with fresh pita bread.
In between each course, the wait staff diligently circled around to retrieve old plates and supply clean ones. Onto course two! With wine in hand, it’s no wonder Zaytinya is known for their wine list. Pinot Grigio from Santorini Greece was light and crisp and paired well with all of the courses. The second course came right up. This course came with Adana Kebab- Ground lamb, house-made harissa, grilled tomatoes, sumac, onion, and pickled chillies. Crispy Brussels Afelia- Brussels sprouts, coriander seed, barberries, and garlic yogurt. Shish Taouk- Grilled chicken thighs sumac onions, garlic toum, and grilled tomatoes.
While waiting on the second course and still sipping on Pinot Grigio, it was impressive to learn that Zaytinya is the only restaurant in the U.S. that feature only wines of the Eastern Mediterranean, including Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Isreal. The waiters presented each dish in a copper like bowl, with the lid on that they remove once it is at your table. Ottoman Pilaf- Saffron basmati rice, dates, pistachios, fried shallots. Urfa Biftek- Grilled sirloin steak, arugula tabbouleh, roasted hazelnuts with pomegranate molasses. Garides Me Anitho- Sautéed shrimp, dill, shallots, mustard, lemon juice. Cauliflower Tiganites- Sultans, capers, pine nuts, with a pine nut puree.
Dessert was Greek Yogurt and Apricots as well as the Turkish Delight. The Greek Yogurt was similar to a mini trifle, so all the ingredients were layered onto one another. This particular dessert consisted of a delicious and surprisingly robust apricot compote and the crushed pistachio sprinkled on top provided a pleasant balance of sweet and salty that complimented the dessert beautifully. Turkish Delight was two scoops of walnut ice cream strategically place atop yogurt mousse, an orange caramel sauce with a sizeable piece of phylo dough in between the two scoops. Sprinkled with caramelized pine nuts and adorned with small squares of honey geleé. Both desserts were outstanding and was easily enjoyed with a cup of Moroccan Mint tea.
Every small plate brought to the table was absolutely outstanding from presentation to taste. The culinary creativity matched with the authentic approach gave way to opening up, for some diners, a new culture of food. By meals end, a smile of contentment and satisfaction is inevitable. It is very easy to understand why many call Zaytinya one of their favorite DC restaurants! If you cannot make it into Zaytinya before the 17th, you’re in luck, they extend Restaurant Week for an extra week at their restaurant until August 24th so you have no excuse to miss out, and you definitely wouldn’t want to do that. Bon Appétit!