Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Closer Look: Zaytinya

What began as a quick pit-stop for a drink to whet our whistles after wandering around The International Spy Museum for a couple of hours in Washington, D.C. ended with a notoriously long wait, unplanned snacking and indulgent fare. However, at Zaytinya, we found three cuisines in one: Turkish, Greek and Lebanese.

Located at the corner of 9th and G Streets N.W. in the Gallery Place/Chinatown section of D.C., Zaytinya was a pleasant diversion before our five hour drive back to Connecticut.

Zaytinya’s menu is impressive in that you can select from three different Mediterranean regions without leaving the city. Our initial thoughts were not on dining, but some of the more interesting dishes sucked us in and didn’t let go until we ordered them.

The service was incredibly slow and although the fresh pita bread basket with olive oil for dipping that was complimentary on each table was appetizing, it did little to quell the hunger that was slowly growing as we were surrounded by tables overflowing with plates of aromatic food.

When food finally reached our tiny table, it was as if someone had shot off a starter’s pistol, declared loudly, “Let the eating begin!” and all conversation at the table ceased.

The Shish Taouk that I ordered was indeed tiny, but it’s to be expected with a mezze dish. However, that one slender piece of grilled chicken with sumac, onions, garlic tuom and grilled tomatoes nearly made my mouth dance. Although pungent enough to ward off vampires, I couldn’t get enough of the garlic paste. Not only was the entire dish enjoyable, it was also pleasing to look at.

Peynirli Pide, a flatbread topped with Turkish tomato sauce with cinnamon and oregano covered in halloumi cheese, was just the right portion size—not so large as to warrant leftovers and not so small as to leave one starving. The melted halloumi cheese bonded with the golden brown pockets of the flatbread, and the delicate aroma was a welcome lure.

The Kibbeh Nayah, Lebanese style beef tartare with slivered radish and chopped mint, was surprisingly enticing looking to this non-raw beef eater. Although it was not exactly what my visiting Dutch mother-in-law expected, she was a trooper and not only did she eat it but she enjoyed it.

The Hummus, while not exploding with extraordinary flavors, was tasty despite being a bit too loose. A pool of olive oil and three whole chick peas completed the presentation and, when eaten with the accompanying warm pita bread, was a snack that few would pass up.

Not too shoddy for a place we picked out based solely on its proximity to our car and The International Spy Museum.

Zaytinya’s menu is affordably priced as long as you refrain from ordering too many of the small plates. The Spreads are $6.50 & $7.50; the Cheeses & Cures are $7.50 for one piece, $14.00 for three; Soups and Salads range $6-$7; Vegetable Mezze run $5.50-$10 while Seafood Mezze are $7-$14; Meat & Poultry Mezze will set you back $7-$11; and Flat Breads are $7 and $9. The majority of the items are identical across the menus, with additional items on the brunch and lunch menus.

701 9th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C.

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