I love José Andres’s China Chilcano but I was initially skeptical of Zaytinya. There has been a recent “Mediterranean food” fad in American eating, where all food from the countries around the Mediterranean is lumped together, despite the fact that Turkey, Greece and Lebanon all have distinct cuisines, to say nothing of other countries like Italy, Spain and Morocco. I feared that Zaytinya would offer a rather inauthentic and bland mix of Lebanese, Greek and Turkish food but I should have put more faith in José Andres.
While many of the dishes are an upscale take on the cuisine of their respective countries of origin, they are deeply rooted
in those countries’ culinary traditions. For instance, the snail kibbeh is hardly traditional, but is an absolutely delicious take on the traditional Lebanese dish. Dishes like the adana kebab and the octopus santorini were far more traditional, but artfully cooked and well-presented. The Batata Maquliya (Lebanese frites with za’atar spice and garlic yogurt) are sure to please any french fry-lover. The fries themselves are Belgian-style crispy frites seasoned with za’atar and the garlic yogurt dip is a perfect accompaniment. Finally, the Peynirli Pide (a Turkish flatbread with halloumi cheese, tomato sauce, oregano and cinnamon) was a bit of a cross between a khachapuri and a pizza. It was delicious to be sure, though perhaps not quite as interesting as some of the other items. Zaytinya is a small plates restaurant, so do be aware that you’ll want to order a few things per person, which makes the cost add up.
However, a major advantage of the small plates format at Zaytinya is the fact that dessert can also be ordered in a small portion. This is great if you want to sample a few desserts or just don’t have room for anything big. I was pretty stuffed so I ordered a small “chocolate rose,” consisting of rose ice cream, chocolate custard, and spiced berry puree. It was absolutely top-notch. Finally, a plus of Zaytinya is their selection of several varieties of raki, arak and ouzo- a polarizing drink but a favorite of mine. Sleek modern ambiance and friendly, attentive service round out a five-star experience.
Zaytinya is a Lebanese, Greek and Turkish restaurant located at 701 9th Street NW.