During a recent trip to DC, I stepped through the doors of a restaurant and thought I had arrived in New York. A sleek, modern dining area adorned with beautiful clear vases of all shapes and sizes, full of the golden nectar of the Mediterranean: olive oil, which in Turkish, is zaytinya. Fashion-conscious, beautiful people sat at the bar, including members of Morrissey’s band (I was told by an admiring fan), so I assumed this had to be Manhattan. But lo and behold, it was DC.
Chef Jose Andres, formerly of El Bulli in Spain, brought mezze style dishes to the Capital City. I read, in a recent article in Saveur on Turkish food, that mezze is popular in Turkey. Mezze are small plates much like Spanish tapas. I am unclear if there is a distinction between the two. I am guessing that the countries of the Mediterranean share their love of small plates, as Italy also has antipasto before a meal, which is the same. However, I have read that mezze are served as a complete meal and not just a prelude. Zaytinya’s plates are a blend of Greek, Turkish and Lebanese cuisines, and each of the three countries has its own definition of mezze.
My dining experience at Zaytinya epitomized why foodies do what we do. We eat countless meals at countless restaurants, hole-in-the-walls to five-stars, waiting for the experience of a Zaytinya. Our meal started with a choice of three spreads–labneh, hummus and tzatziki.
I fell in love with the olive oil-topped labneh, the best I have ever had. The light-as-air pita were so wonderful as well. The combination of the two was the highlight of my meal here. I have to mention that the olive oil was the best I’ve ever tasted. I saw the large can near the kitchen with the name Petrina in red letters. I have yet to find this olive oil locally, but I absolutely love it. The kolokithokeftedes, zucchini and cheese patties with a caper-yogurt sauce, were out of this world. I also had a lamb dish that I was not that fond of but obviously didn’t care as everything else was superb. Finally, the dessert I had is no longer on the menu, but to me it was divine. It was Greek yogurt with a cherry sorbet.
Now there is a similar dessert on the menu with apricot instead of cherry. I really hope they bring back the cherry for my next trip. My dining companion had the Turkish delight, a dessert with walnut ice cream, Skotidakis Farm goat’s milk yogurt mousse, honey geleé, orange-caramel sauce, and caramelized pine nuts, which was also delicious.