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Zaytinya


Steve Klc
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beef stuffed baby pasta shells with garlic yogurt, paprika butter and sumac

Funny, I had this with lunch on Saturday. I was determined to order something other then my usuals. I didn't like it at all but don't think it wasn't prepared well so much as not to my taste. I thought there was far too much sauce and it had far too much sumac. I couldn't taste garlic or paprika -- only sumac in the sauce -- and came to the conclusion that I might not be all that fond of sumac.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Had drinks (no food) at Zaytinya last night. They're offering what I assume is a summer special: an apricot sour. It's fantastic - fresh and a little (but not too) sweet.

The web site says it's apricot brand, vodka, fresh juice and sour mix, but I remember the description differently on the menu. Oh well - it's really delicious. That's all I needed to know.

Oh, and JPW, I thought of you as I oh-so-carefully washed my hands in those funky sinks.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have been a fan of this restaurant since it opened but the last two meals I had there (once in mid-June and once in late July) have left me wondering about what is going on. Some of the dishes were too salty and one of my favorites, the puff boregi (sp?), was not nice and crisp but limp, flat and chewy like it had been re-heated in a microwave. The octopus was impossible to chew and worst of all: my favorite dessert, the semolina cake, had disapeared from the menu! Anyone out there who shares my disappointment?

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I have to admit that the last 2 times I went it seemed like the food had lost a bit of its zip. I chalked it up as since I tend to order the same core items that maybe I was just use to the dishes now. However, eating outside on their patio is still one of my favorite ways to pass an afternoon.

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I've always found the place to be over-rated. Although I do like sampling their wine list, I much prefer Jaleo and Atlantico for food. Am excited for the opening of Oyamel, which still is claiming to be open in October. Interesting that its website says it's opening in Washington (instead of Arlington/Crystal City).

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I had one or two meals there that made me say "eh". But my last two over the course of a few months have been as good as ever. Its never going to wow as much as the first few times you go, just like any other good, new place. This leaves room to look more for the individual misses rather than the overall good impressions.

You can only taste the Hunkar Begendi for the first time once.

Bill Russell

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You can only taste the Hunkar Begendi for the first time once.

I believe it was Yogi Berra who said that. :laugh:

(and with that, a signature is born)

edited to add the parenthetical...

Edited by Al_Dente (log)

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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I've always found the place to be over-rated. Although I do like sampling their wine list, I much prefer Jaleo and Atlantico for food. Am excited for the opening of Oyamel, which still is claiming to be open in October. Interesting that its website says it's opening in Washington (instead of Arlington/Crystal City).

I live on the other side of The Underground from there, and definately looking forward to its opening. That strip has definate eGullet Night Out potential. Oyamel and Jaleo right next to eachother, then.....pub with games and things whose name I can't remember (Something and Somebodies I think, but not Dave and Busters obviously) on the corner! It's reputedly better than it sounds. But hey, we can always just go back to my place for white russians!

-- C.S.

Maker Of Killer White Russians.

Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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  • 2 weeks later...

Apologies if this has already been said...

For anyone intrigued by Zaytinya, but intimidated by the crowds/no reservations after 6:30 policy, lunch provides a very pleasant introduction to the place, particularly in summer.

I had a really enjoyable lunch there today [with another egullet member who may or may not choose to identify herself]. We arrived so early that there was only one other table occupied on the patio when we arrived and two when we left. Perfect.

Service was not, perhaps, as polished as it could be, but our server sure was friendly. When I (the first to sit down) arrived, he thanked me for sitting in his section and remarked that he was "excited" to have someone to wait on. :laugh:

We had several old favorites - including the hunkar begendi. I also tried the carrot fritters which are probably old news to a lot of you, but they were a revelation to me. Who knew carrots could taste like this? The addition of pine nuts, apricot and a sauce made of pistachios helped.

Surprisingly sunny while we ate. Great food, lovely company.

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Zaytinya serves all afternoon. If you come after the lunch rush around 2 o'clock you can linger and savor.

lingering and savoring at zaytinya, jaleo (johnny's half shell as well) have always proved to be most fruitful, delicious, overly-friendly (in that lonesome-server sort of way) and most importantly of all: uncrowded. for shy egulletiers such as myself.

a fabulous recommendation for any restaurant that servers between lunch and dinner (i believe david gregory falls into this category too... mixtec as well)

there is no love sincerer than the love of food

- george bernard shaw

i feel like love is in the kitchen with a culinary eye, think she's making something special and i'm smart enough to try

- interpol

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Since I live in the far reaches of suburbia I only make it to Zaytinya for weekend lunches - never a wait and only once was I dressed too casually and seated in the upstairs "enchanted grotto" despite an empty first floor.

Bill Russell

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  • 2 weeks later...
I had one or two meals there that made me say "eh".  But my last two over the course of a few months have been as good as ever.  Its never going to wow as much as the first few times you go, just like any other good, new place.  This leaves room to look more for the individual misses rather than the overall good impressions.

I must admit that I too have been underwhelmed by the food at Zaytinya during several visits over the past year or so. The food started off very good when it first opened, then became mediocre IMHO--but my visit last Friday night reminded me of the good old days! :raz:

A group of five of us were seated at about 7:30 last Friday night WITHOUT A WAIT! I love August in DC. :smile: They even allowed the fifth member of our party to squeeze in around a table for four. Very accomodating.

The mezzes were splendid. We ordered: hommus; braised rabbit with lentils; baby octopus; spanakopita; skewered ground lamb w/ cheese & eggplant-yogurt puree; carrot/apricot/pine nut fritters w/ pistachio sauce; fried eggplant w/ roasted garlic-yogurt sauce; and sauteed shrimp w/ dill, shallots, mustard & lemon juice. There was a very intriguing squash blossom dish on the specials list--but they had run out of it.

The fritters were a particular stand-out and the rabbit mezze was the best I've had in a long time. And although I know next to nothing about Greek wine, our server set me up with a refreshing glass of the '02 Moschofilero (sauvignon blanc-like).

They're back.

Liam

Eat it, eat it

If it's gettin' cold, reheat it

Have a big dinner, have a light snack

If you don't like it, you can't send it back

Just eat it -- Weird Al Yankovic

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  • 2 months later...

I was hoping to get some feedback on an experience my wife and I had last weekend at Zaytinya. After a movie at MCI, we wandered over at 530PM for an early dinner. Place was half empty, but we were told that all of the empty tables (and there were a lot) were being held for reservations. So, along with about 6 or 8 other parties, we were invited to eat in the bar area.

We did, and received terrible service. There was one waiter for the entire bar area, which by about 545PM was packed with confused diners. And that one waiter spent most of his time behind the bar. We had to ask for bread repeatedly, and ended up asking for the check from a busboy, because that waiter completely disappeared. Food, by the way, was awesome as usual.

But more importantly, for the 90 minutes or so we were there, many of the tables stayed empty. From our cramped perch at one of the small tables in the bar, we specifically watched 8 tables that went empty from 530PM to 630PM, and only then started to fill. Some of the parties that came in at the same time as us didn't eat, but actually waited in the bar for close to an hour, and then were seated at tables that had been sitting empty the entire time!

It was disturbing to watch. I think that Zaytinya's policy is to take reservations until 630PM, but why would they force diners into the bar when obviously tables were available? I hope it wasn't to force drink orders, or to give the place a full feel artificially. Were they holding all those tables open for the 630PM reservations? Seems like we couldn't win -- it is tough to go after 630PM without having to wait a long time, and now it is tough to go before 630PM, because you will be forced to sit in the bar. Something I'm missing? :sad:

Edited for a typo, and to say that we did see at least a couple of parties leave the restaurant when they were refused a table.

Edited by DCatty (log)
Save Pale Male <--- GO HERE!
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The same thing happened to me at lunch the other day. We were asked to sit in the bar when I could see at least six empty tables. I figured maybe there weren't enough waiters to handle full sections at lunch or maybe the tables were reserved.

Either way, we sat in the bar area while the tables stayed empty, which was fine except that the bar tables are tiny and we kept running out of space as our tapas came out. I'll head to the actual bar next time that happens so I can have a little more room.

It's daunting to think about what it must be like to juggle tables and reservations at a place the size of Zaytinya. I wish they took reservations at night (I'd go much more often) but I guess they have reasons for their policies.

Amanda

Metrocurean, a D.C. restaurant and food blog

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Is it also possible that they want their bar area to be 'hopping' so that once the tables fill in, the entire place is full? Don't get me wrong--I don't subscribe to the concept, but I just recently had a restaurant up here put a group downstairs (instead of in a small private space upstairs) for this very reason.

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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  • 3 weeks later...

I came searching for this thread today to see if anyone else had had experiences like the one I had last night.

We got to Zaytinya around 7 and waited in the bar for a table. We actually got a table in the bar (woo hoo!) and then spent at least 10 minutes to try to get drink orders placed. Okay, whatever. We place drink orders and sit there for at least 10 more minutes waiting for our drinks. After about 25 minutes out table was ready and we still had not received the drinks we ordered. So one person from our party had to stay in the bar and track down our server while the rest of us were seated. Mildly annoying.

Then we got drinks at the table, ordered, had fabulous food as usual. There was this one salad that I've never had before involving oranges, pomagranate seeds, goat cheese, olives, and other things that I would never think of combining but was fabulous.

Then we waited *forever* for our check. We asked two busboys with no luck and then finally spotted our server and asked him for the bill. The time we waited at the table between finishing our coffee and waiting for the bill must have been between 45 minutes and an hour. It was completely aggravating.

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I took an out-of-town friend to Zaytinya Saturday night for dinner, as I think it is one of the most fun/hip places to eat & drink without breaking the bank, plus the beautiful space always provokes a "wow" response from a first timer.

The food was great as usual; highlights for me included wild mushrooms with walnut sauce and a divinely rich lamb shank...other plates were tasty but those 2 stood out this visit. Turkish coffee chocolate cake is always amazing!

But, like smayman, the service was the rough spot...our server was fairly attentive during the meal despite getting stuck with the huge middle table (one big party celebrating a birthday); but when it came time to get the check we sat, and sat, and sat, and sat............... I don't think this problem is unique to Zaytinya though, as it seems like the post-eating, pre-paying portion of dinner is the SLOWEST in many DC restaurants. Maybe the idea is to give people time to relax after eating, but I'd much rather have a timely check delivered with a comment to take as long as I'd like or some such.

"What, after all, is more seductive than the prospect of sinning in libraries?"

Michael Dirda, An Open Book

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  • 4 weeks later...

Everyone else may already know this, but I didn't. Zaytinya is a very cool place to have brunch on Sundays. It's much, much less of a scene than usual, bordering on the tranquil, and the service and food were excellent. Liked the Kibbeh and Havuk Koftesi, loved the "Yogurt Creme with apricot two ways and Samos Island Muscat-vanilla gelee." Where else can one find apricots that go both ways?

(One caveat: Parking down there by the MCI Center suck-diddly-ucks, even on the weekend. You can either choose to pay to park in a garage, or you can choose to circle the surrounding few blocks for 20 minutes while you curse and bicker with your significant other until you finally give up and pay to park in a garage. Up to you.)

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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(One caveat: Parking down there by the MCI Center suck-diddly-ucks, even on the weekend. You can either choose to pay to park in a garage, or you can choose to circle the surrounding few blocks for 20 minutes while you curse and bicker with your significant other until you finally give up and pay to park in a garage. Up to you.)

I don't usually find the parking to be so bad on weekends. This past Sunday, though, there was a Wizards game at noon which probably affected your parking search.

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Nothing too major it just looked like they gave up on trying to clear tables or drink glasses and there was paper/confetti everywhere tables and chairs all over the place. Typical after large New Years party type of stuff. It was getting towards that time of night on New Years when it goes from fun to.....ugly so we beat feet.

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(One caveat: Parking down there by the MCI Center suck-diddly-ucks, even on the weekend. You can either choose to pay to park in a garage, or you can choose to circle the surrounding few blocks for 20 minutes while you curse and bicker with your significant other until you finally give up and pay to park in a garage. Up to you.)

I don't usually find the parking to be so bad on weekends. This past Sunday, though, there was a Wizards game at noon which probably affected your parking search.

If there's no event at MCI Center (a more likely occurrence these days with the lack of Capitals games :-( OT - I'm somewhat curious how that's affecting the restaurant and bar scene around Penn Quarter w/o hockey) you can usually find parking over by the National Building Museum - around 4th and 5th and F or G. Even in worst case scenarios, 3rd St is almost always available. In this area, I've usually found that going east is more conducive to parking than going west (i.e. toward Metro Center).

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