I had dinner at Zaytinya with my girlfriend Maeve on 2-1-2017. The space is always impressive, with massive windows, incredibly high ceilings and lots of color. The staff was friendly and the manager even came to talk to me about #MissionMichelin!
Zaytinya was the first of two restaurants I visited for D.C. Restaurant Week. Based on somewhat lackluster performances by both, combined with friends’ warnings that restaurants sort of phone it in for the $35 Restaurant Week pre-fixe, I might skip that in the future.
Atmosphere: 3 out of 5
Food & Drink: 3 out of 5
I will say the Restaurant Week dinner menu was the perfect length. There were five sections, and you picked once item from each. For two people that meant a lot of food to try!
The waiter was so nice. He took at least four pictures of us including the one below. He seemed a little rushed at times but was happy to give us menu recommendations and was never bored or annoyed. He even brought me a napkin for my gum without me asking, which obviously gave him +100 points.
Not pictured is the giant open air rotisserie we were sitting next to, which at the time had lamb on a spit. It was cool and smelled great but was a little overwhelming at first. I got nervous we’d reek when we left but it was fine.
Front – 3pm in Instanbul (lemon lavender mint tea infused vodka, aperol, vanilla syrup, lime juice, grapefruit juice). The sugar on the side was delightful, as was the drink at first. Then after a bit it became overly floral, too alcoholic and tasted a little like fake orange.
Back – Maia & Minthe (Hendricks, elderflower, cucumber, mint, lime). Get this!! It was absolutely delicious every time I stole sip from Maeve.
Labneh (front) and humus. I could eat this labneh All. Day. Long. So damn good. The humus was good but the labneh is my new fav.
Kotopoulo youvetsi (chicken, orzo, tomato, kefalograveria cheese). It wasn’t bad but tasted like baked ziti, which was not what I was expecting. I also have a rule that I don’t order anything I think I could easily make at home and this definitely felt like something I could make.
Keftedes kapama (beef and lamb meatballs, feta, rustic tomato sauce, cinnamon, allspice). Meh. These weren’t bad but the sauce really overwhelmed the meat and I could barely taste the feta. I’d probably skip these.
Shish taouk (grilled chicken skewer, sumac, onions, garlic toum, grilled tomatoes). The chicken tasted good but wasn’t super exciting. The toum and the grilled tomoatoes were the best part. I kind of want to put toum on everything now.
Adana kebab (ground lamb, tomatoes, sumac, harissa pita, pickled chiles). This was absolutely delicious and tied with the labneh as my favorite savory part of the meal. I actually started dipping the lamb in the labneh about halfway through and man was that good. The harissa made the lamb it a little spicy, which was a great contrast to the labneh’s smooth creaminess. Definitely get this. Maeve who doesn’t even like lamb said she loved it.
Garides me anitho (shrimp, dill, shallots, mustard, butter, lemon juice). Quite good! The lemon and butter reminded me of hollandaise. I wish the lemon were a little more pronounced but that’s my love of acidic food. I’d recommend this.
Seared haloumi cheese (dates, pomegranate, orange, mint). This came out a little cold and was super salty but it was good nonetheless. I’ll be honest, I liked it better at Iron Gate but that was probably because it was warmer and fried.
Front – Greek yogurt and apricots (apricots, vanilla yogurt cream, apricot sorbet, pistachio). Oh. Em. Gee. Absolutely the best part of the entire meal. Delicious!
Back – Turkish delight (walnut ice cream, yogurt mousse, honey gelée, orange-caramel sauce, pine nuts). This was good but it paled in comparison to the greek yogurt and apricot dessert.
Overall Zaytinya was a lovely experience. The manager talking to me about #MissionMichelin was obviously the highlight of my life. He told me about the Tour De Jose, which is a progressive dinner at the four Jose Andres Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand restaurants (Zaytinya, Oyamel, Jaleo and China Chilcano). That sounds like fun!
Zaytinya was one of the first restaurants I went to when I moved to D.C. Then for five years I worked right across the street from it. It’s obviously a special place to me but it feels like it might be resting on its laurels a bit. No matter what, though, I’ll always love it.