No matter your pleasure, this kitchen aims to meet it, with dozens of dishes that ferry you to Greece, Lebanon and Turkey without your having to leave Penn Quarter. Mezze are to the Middle East what tapas are to Spain and dim sum is to China: good things in small packages. My current interests at Zaytinya run all over the map. On the light side are iced oysters tarted up with yogurt, dill and wrinkly-red, sweet-tart barberries. More robust: morsels of lemony lamb tongue wreathed in crisp green beans strewn with pickled red chilies and sweetened with sultanas. But it would be just as easy to make an indoor picnic of the many vegetable attractions, among them a dip of roasted red peppers, feta cheese and thyme — a great companion to the warm, house-baked pita — and giant white beans with juicy tomatoes, verdant kale and a haze of garlic. Hate making decisions? Let chef Michael Costa whip up an “Experience,” five or so courses for $55. The blue of the expansive dining room brings the sea to mind, while the white, which is everywhere else, suggests drifting clouds or sun-washed rock. Chipped furnishings give away the restaurant’s age (12), but diners might be too busy knocking back ouzo-battered trout or chicken shawarma to notice, or care.
2012 Fall Dining Guide
2012 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Magazine
Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012
Our waiter at this sweeping ode to mezze talks in exclamation points. “My favorite kind of drink -- all booze!" he cries when I order the sunset-colored Istanbul fueled with bourbon and apricot eau-de-vie. “We're going to have a lot of fun!" he says after he has taken orders for a spread that includes fragile squash blossoms that reveal a core of feta when touched by a fork and lush beef tartare scooped up with pita chips flavored with sumac. Fritters made with snails, each morsel perched on a coin of crisp potato and cumin-tinged yogurt, are like no other kibbeh you've ever had: a revelation. The more I eat, the more lust I feel for the luscious combinations of Greek, Lebanese and Turkish flavors that leave the kitchen at the rate of 5,000 (count 'em!) small plates on a typical Saturday. Not to be missed: phyllo filled with shredded lamb if you dig meat, ovals of red lentils in lettuce wraps if you don't, or any of the refreshing sorbets (yogurt and grapefruit seduce me most). While the food tastes familiar, nowhere is it staged as beautifully as it is in this multilevel, blue-and-white dining room, which has aged well in the 10 years since celebrity chef Jose Andres brought it to life. Happy anniversary to ... us!
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