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Zaytinya


Steve Klc
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Sometimes the greatest evidence of genius can be found in the simplest of things. Last night at Zaytinya, I had a small football-shaped pizza with tomato, halloumi, feta and oregano. It was on the special list, and I had never seen it there before. The crust was hands down the best I have had anywhere in town. It was thin and slightly charred, with a tender interior and no sign of so much as a single bubble. The outer edge was a perfect half-inch wide golden brown rim. Move over Matchbox, Paradiso, and Two Amys--Jose Andres just made a pizza crust that puts you all to shame.

I think Jose has that rare combination of an innate genius for what works on a plate and an incredible willingness to study and perfect everything he serves. Whether his next restaurant features food from Mexico, Outer Mongolia, Fiji, or Patagonia, I'll be first in line to try it.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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Sometimes the greatest evidence of genius can be found in the simplest of things.  Last night at Zaytinya, I had a small football-shaped pizza with tomato, halloumi, feta and oregano.  It was on the special list, and I had never seen it there before.  The crust was hands down the best I have had anywhere in town.  It was thin and slightly charred, with a tender interior and no sign of so much as a single bubble.  The outer edge was a perfect half-inch wide golden brown rim.  Move over Matchbox, Paradiso, and Two Amys--Jose Andres just made a pizza crust that puts you all to shame.

I think Jose has that rare combination of an innate genius for what works on a plate and an incredible willingness to study and perfect everything he serves.  Whether his next restaurant features food from Mexico, Outer Mongolia, Fiji, or Patagonia, I'll be first in line to try it.

I wonder how Jose's thought process works?

This sounds like a wonderful item, but the assembly of ingredients is so unexpected, so different. Does he sit in a pizzeria and say "If I changed this, or added that, and did this to the dough?" I'd have something I might like?

Or does he just bring in good friends and colleagues and start noodling ideas?

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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This is a write-up from back in January 2003.

Zaytinya means 'olive oil' in Turkish, right?

This restaurant makes mezzes (aka tapas) from Greece, Turkey and Lebanon and more. It is a huge two level place that is tastefully appointed and evokes the spirit of the Aegean.

Service is top notch and we were never left to want for anything. This wine list is almost exclusively Greek with a handful of other things thrown in, even from funkier places (Lebanese wine?). Picking a wine was a bit of a crapshoot, but the list has some cribs notes bits to explain what the different varietals are, so that helps. Mrs. TJ and I definitely stayed below our New Year's Resolution imposed $50 limit ( we only hit the $30 mark and were pleasantly surprised --- 1999 Paranga Fiorina -- TNs are HERE ).

The food is mostly wonderful. We had the following tastes---

Shrimp ouzo cheese thing (super yum!)

Beef wheat currant 'meatballs' with a yogurt sauce (funky, but a little dry)

Cod deepfried resting on a tasty puree (good)

Roasted red peppers and feta melange (yum)

Salad thing (man I can't even explain this one that had tomatoes, bits of lettuce, radishes, pita croutons, onions and more) -- DELISH!

Mullet with tomatoes and capers, very interesting and flavorful

Carrot apricot pine nut fritters with pistachio sauce -- I think this had lots of spices in it, especially cardamom) YUM

Sausage with beans (peppery) -- Mrs. TJ didn't like this one much, but I thought the sausage part was delicious.

All in all, a great experience. I would go back here again. Heck, it's been 6 months. I need to go back, now.

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Do you mean the hunkar begendi, that is braised lamb with eggplant puree? As a mezze at lunch, it is served off the bone. Perhaps at dinner it is served as an entire shank -- the dinner portion is much more expensive so that would make sense.

The Zaytiniya version adds cheese to the eggplant, which is not traditional. Eggplant puree is made by first grilling whole eggplants with their skins on on a charcoal grill. When the skin is charred remove it from the fire and let it cool until you can peel the skin and remove any burn parts. Then mash the eggplant until it forms a smooth paste. When so prepared, slowly add olive oil to creat an emulsion between the two ingredients, similar to the egg and oil in mayonnaise. Add pressed garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.

Any good recipe for braised lamb could be used. The Middle Eastern spicing would traditionally include lemon juice and thyme, but this preparation should be to your personal taste.

A sprinkling of chopped parsely at the end should ready this dish for plating.

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They make this amazing lamb shank with eggplant puree.. can anyway hazard a guess at the recipe?

That is my favorite - YUM.

I had that last time......... mmmmmm........ oooooh........ divine........ my nipples expode with delight

Edited by Al_Dente (log)

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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They make this amazing lamb shank with eggplant puree.. can anyway hazard a guess at the recipe?

That is my favorite - YUM.

Yep, nutmeg, sugar, nutmeg, some thoroughly-cooked lamb, nutmeg, eggplant, and a dash of nutmeg. :unsure:

Edited by DonRocks (log)
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They make this amazing lamb shank with eggplant puree.. can anyway hazard a guess at the recipe?

That is my favorite - YUM.

Yep, nutmeg, sugar, nutmeg, some thoroughly-cooked lamb, nutmeg, eggplant, and a dash of nutmeg. :unsure:

Well, last night we went there with a group of 25. They have a sort of communal table in the middle of the downstairs part. I tasted 5 or 6 dishes. The lamb shank was one of them. This was my favorite. The olives are damn good, too. Mr. DonRocks is correct, however. There was one hell of a lot of nutmeg in that dish. The meat was savory, however.

Mark

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I'll say one thing for Zaytinya, and this may come across as derogatory but I don't mean it to be: if I was running a tour-bus company, and had a group who wanted one special meal, I would arrange a late-afternoon lunch at Zaytinya. The space is striking, the fare is exotic, the prices for each dish are reasonable, the food is perfect for people not used to fine dining, and it can handle large parties.

Think about it: Zaytinya can be this generation's version of the Market Inn - instead of 100 seafood and beef entrees, it has 100 items with a Mediterranean flair. Furthermore, it's less than one short mile to the theater where Lincoln was shot, so the passengers could potentially do both in one outing.

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Had great evening at Zaytinya last night. I too had the lamb shanks with eggplant puree. But I found it quite rich with the cheese combined in the puree considering I had just had the scallops in a dill sauce (which was delectable), zuchini cakes and a fisherman's soup beforehand. I should've gone really hungry. That way, I would've been able to enjoy the lamb shanks much more. It goes very well with the warm pita bread though. Ended the evening off with Turikish coffee chocolate cake. It reminds me of a molten cake with interesting spices. On my next visit to DC, I would most definitely have to go to Zaytinya again just to try more menu items. Everyone loved it.

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I've been to Zaytinya 4 times so far and have recommended it to a number of folks. I think the food is fabulous. But (or "Butt" as the case may be)...

Each time I went in the past I sat at the bar, however this past Friday I sat at a table. I hate to nitpick, but this was really annoying-- the booth we sat in had these horrible vinyl cushions. They were really thick and soft and seemed to be erratically stuffed. Maybe it was the wine, but I felt like I was tilting half the time. And the vinyl caused me to lose about 5 pounds of waterweight in my posterior area.

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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  • 2 months later...

I stopped in today with a friend for a late lunch and ended up killing the whole afternoon. They serve all afternoon, we found out, after showing up to find Ceiba closed for Columbus Day and Poste closing promptly at 2. This was my second visit, but the first visit was with a group of 20 or so and so not conducive to careful study of the menu and winelist. 2 of us ordered 10 things and a bottle of tasty Agryros Estate, a white wine from the island of Santorini. The standouts were a lobster tsaziki special, shrimp with dill, fried mussels, the baba ghanoush and the marvelous pita bread. We ordered seconds of the shrimp it was so good. We then repaired to the bar for coffees, araks, dessert (dates and turkish coffee cake), and that most European of accompaniments, cigarettes. This place is most pleasant in the mid-afternoon when the crowds have subsided. The service was genial, helpful and professional all the way through. The food was ordered all at once, but arrives as it is ready. The nice touch for a gringo at Mediterranean food like me was that everybody who brought food stopped to describe it. I will be going back.

Edited by Mark Sommelier (log)

Mark

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My one beef with Zaytinya is they don't take reservations past 6:30. But they DO allow BYOW with a reasonable (I think it is $15) corkage fee. Their wine list is very good -- not that it is extensive, but it covers wines from the regions where the food is all inspired from, so it all pairs well. And it is pretty cheap, too, markup-wise, IIRC.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Emma and I stopped by for lunch today, after taking in a matinee of Dragon Tales Live. :smile: Kudos to the staff for seating us like regular folks and not hiding us off in some kid purgatory. We ordered drinks, sour fizzy lemonade for me (seriously refreshing) and peach nectar for Emma. Quote from Emma: "This is beautiful. This is some restaurant!"

We shared the Shish Taouk, cheese and zucchini fritters, green beans stewed with garlic and tomatoes, and hummus. Everything was delicious, although the fritters were a tad underseasoned. I believe Emma managed to eat her weight in hummus.

We couldn't leave without ordering one of Steve's desserts, so I had a sweet Turkish coffee and the Turkish Coffee Chocolate, and Emma had a bowl of the yogurt sorbet, which she loved. I would love to duplicate that at home. The cardamom espuma on the TCC was unbelievable.

This is very kid friendly food, and the place is large and busy enough that well-behaved children shouldn't be an issue for other diners. I wouldn't hesitate to take her back.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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  • 3 weeks later...

I finally made it downt here last night and was not disappointed at all. I went with a friend who is definately not a foodie, and she had a life changing experience. She now understands my obsession with dining out.

I think she summed it up perfectly when she said "Nothing shuts us up and the food has done that twice!"

How come nobody has raved about the patates taganites (potatos fried in olive oil and topped with yogurt)? This is one of the top three potato dishes I have ever tasted. The fries were perfectly crisp, yet light and moist on the inside. The yogurt sauce contrasted the fried potatos perfectly. It was so good we ordered a second plate full, although the second plate was not fried as well as the first.

We ordered the garides me anitho (shrimp in dill sauce), hunkar begendi (lamp with eggplant puree) and spanikopita because of the recommendations here. They shrimp were increadible and we sopped up all the leftover sauce with the pita. (My friend had never had great pita and could not stop raving about it.) The lamb was delicious but I found the nutmeg in the eggplant puree overpowering. The spanikoptia was fine, although we felt it needed a touch more seasoning.

We also ordered the beef tenderloin and codfish with skordalia. The beef was perfectly cooked and "like buttah" as my friend kept saying. The codfish was the only disappointment of the evening. The fish was expertly fried, but had very little flavor. The potato garlic sauce could have been delicious but was served ice cold. I don't know if it was served this way to contrast the fish, but I felt the complexity of the flavor was lost because the potatos were so cold.

For dessert we ordered the olive oil ice cream. Steve, you might want to talk to the servers about the description they give. When we asked one of ours to describe it he replied "it is oily." The ice cream is many things, but oily is not one of them. It was definately an eating adventure for my friend. We both enjoyed the taste, but felt that the mouth feel was a bit grainy and it reminded us of sour milk. The ice cream was so soft that by the end it was the same consistency as a milk shake. Is it possible to serve it more chilled, or is the softness on purpose? During the summer, this would make a great milkshake.

My only two complaints are not food related. Last night the restaurant was freezing. It was warmer outside when we left around 8pm. Many people were wearing their coats as they ate. I realize that it was warm yesterday, but I should not have been freezing while wearing a turtleneck sweater.

The other problem was the service. It is very rare that I can say this, but the waitstaff was too attentive. Many times during the evening the runners tried to clear plates that we were not finished with. Yes, there was no food on the plate, but we were clearly enjoying the different sauces. At one point, I had a runner stand there and wait as I took the last bite. Also, the waiter who we were giving our orders to changed at some point in the evening, which we did not understand. Is this a regular practice?

Overall, it is a great experience. My friend and I have already planned our second visit and I have this feeling that nothing I eat today will taste that good.

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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My wife and I woke up with a craving for hamburgers so we drove into the city to go to Matchbox - unfortunately they are closed on Sunday (what's up with that)?

As a consolation prize we went around the block to Zaytinya. After a recent time there that was not quite as good as it had been in the past, this was a welcome return to the standard we have always expected. Everything was right on.

This is the type of place that makes me glad to live in this city.

Bill Russell

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'll be returning to Zaytinya tonight and am looking forward to trying some of the suggested dishes (especially the hunkar begendi and Turkish coffee chocolate cake!).

Has anyone ever tried the pork and orange rind sausage with bean stew? What other meat dishes would you suggest?

Happy eating!

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I'll be returning to Zaytinya tonight and am looking forward to trying some of the suggested dishes (especially the hunkar begendi and Turkish coffee chocolate cake!).

Has anyone ever tried the pork and orange rind sausage with bean stew? What other meat dishes would you suggest?

Happy eating!

They had a braised lamb shank that knocked me out last time I was there.

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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The beef tenderloin is amazing and there is lots of sauce to sop up with the fantastic pita.

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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I'll be returning to Zaytinya tonight and am looking forward to trying some of the suggested dishes (especially the hunkar begendi and Turkish coffee chocolate cake!).

Has anyone ever tried the pork and orange rind sausage with bean stew? What other meat dishes would you suggest?

Happy eating!

Get the yogurt dessert with apricot even if you don't think you want dessert. I'm in a hurry now so I don't have any time to write, but you'll love it.

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