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!
By Tom Sietsema Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009
I'm always tempted to bring earplugs to this sleek, blue-and-white ode to the flavors of Greece, Turkey and beyond. Zaytinya remains one of the loudest restaurants in the city. But my last meal there was worth the aural assault: Jose Andres and his crack team of cooks put out a spread like few others, anywhere. The dips and salads, seafood and meats are reliably luscious, and if you like steak tartare, the raw kibbe ("freshly ground," a waiter trumpets) garnished with radishes and fresh mint is a must. But pay close attention to the specials, such as long-roasted lamb, carved and sauced at the table by the chef on duty. (Hey, it's Mike Isabella, from TV's "Top Chef"!) "This lamb did not die in vain," a gourmet at my table declares, swooning over a tender hunk of shoulder, flavorful from its marinade of garlic and oregano. We enjoy the feast with warm-from-the-oven pita bread and fresh chickpeas roasted in their pods. Soggy fried mussels with walnut sauce miss perfection. But pressed dried caviar in a yellow band of beeswax, a saline snack that Andres calls "the essence of this restaurant," shows how close this kitchen comes to that mark.
We were a party of 16, including a ten-year old who eats only pizza, two strict vegetarians, plus five ravenous 6-foot tall young men. Everyone enjoyed everything. The trout with potatoes skordalia, the meatballs, mushroom medley, all were delicious-- I could go on and on. The service was exemplary and accommodating. Zaytinya is on my must visit list from now on.
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