Address: 701 9th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
Usually when I go out to eat for dinner, I visit places where if I pay anywhere from $10 to $20, I can get a pretty satisfying meal. However, I do think that once in a while it’s fun to visit a classier restaurant and spend a little extra for dinner. It was this mentality along with hearing rave reviews about Zaytinya from a number of my friends that led me to visit the restaurant this weekend with my friends Andy and Emily.
Zaytinya is one of several restaurants in D.C. contrived from the creative mind of Chef José Andrés. The menu draws inspiration from Greek, Lebanese, and Turkish cuisines, with menu items served as small plates known as mezze (Eastern Mediterranean version of Spanish tapas). Having never tried either, it was a great opportunity to branch out into something new.
Being a weekend, the restaurant was certainly busy, but we managed to secure a spot at the bar. We were helped by one of the barstaff, Jameson, who provided us with excellent service. He was friendly and laid-back, very knowledgeable about both the food and drinks, and also attentive during our meal and asked to make sure that we had everything that we needed.
A big advantage for mezze (or tapas for that matter) is that you can try a whole array of food on the menu. We ended up ordering seven different plates with flavors that took us all over the Eastern Mediterranean region. All seven dishes were delicious, with my favorites being the Crispy Brussels Afelia and the Aglaia Kremezi Crab Cakes. I’m not usually one to go after some brussels sprouts, but that dish has the perfect blend between flavor and texture that I just kept having to scoop a little bit more. The crab cakes were wonderful, with a satisfying amount of crab meat and a great blend of spices in the cake itself to mix well with the garlic yogurt sauce. We finished things off with a Turkish dessert that mixed walnut, honey, orange, and caramel flavors together and had great textural contrast provided by the ice cream, crispy wafer, and caramelized pine nuts.
For me, it was an awesome experience and great introduction to the small-plate dining style. Everything about the restaurant visit really clicked and I walked out of there with a full stomach and a very positive impression. It’s a place I wouldn’t hesitate to bring my friends and family to in the future.
Let’s now take a look at the Zaytinya Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Bantijan Bil Laban **
Crispy eggplant wedges served with garlic yogurt sauce.
Sautéed shrimp with tomatoes, scallions, sheep’s milk cheese, and feta cheese.
** Crispy Brussels Afelia **
Crispy brussel sprouts mixed with coriander seed, barberries, and a garlic yogurt sauce.
** Keftedes Kapama **
Beef and lamb meatballs with feta cheese immersed in a rustic tomato sauce.
** Aglaia Kremezi Crab Cakes **
Jumbo lump crab cakes served with a roasted garlic yogurt sauce.
** Shish Taouk **
Grilled chicken kebab with onions, tomatoes, and Lebanese garlic sauce (toum).
** Hünkãr Begendi **
Turkish-style braised lamb shank with an eggplant & sheep’s milk cheese purée.
Squid breaded and lightly fried, served with garlic yogurt sauce on the side.
** Bronzino **
Seared Mediterranean sea bass served on roasted eggplant purée, lemon sauce, and sumac oil.
Walnut ice cream, yogurt mousse, honey geleé, orange-caramel sauce, and crushed caramlized pine nuts.
And finally, here are my rankings for Zaytinya:
Food: 5 / 5
All the mezze we ordered were delicious and really was a nice spread of flavors, mixing from the meat, seafood, and vegetarian areas of their menu quite well. The selection of food is pretty extensive, and everything sounds great.
Atmosphere: 5 / 5
The dining atmosphere definitely has a more casual vibe to it (probably even more so since we were sitting at the bar). I really liked how the restaurant’s interior design incorporated a lot of glass, which gave it a more sleek, modern feel.
Service: 5 / 5
As I mentioned above, Jameson provided us with fantastic service throughout the evening. The food also arrived a lot quicker than I expected, considering how busy it seemed like it was.
Price: 5 / 5
My final tally for the night: ~$45. Not bad considering that’s a drink from the bar, the main courses, and dessert. All those bites from the small plates added up to keep me satisfied, and it’s a price I’d certainly pay again.