We’d had a busy morning on our second day in DC and hadn’t really made plans for lunch. So after foraging in our Eyewitness travel guide (these books are brilliant by the way) we settled on Zaytinya’s, on the basis that it sounded interesting and wasn’t far from where we currently were (FYI, it’s close to the National Gallery of Art).
This restaurant serves a fusion of Greek, Turkish and Lebanese food at low low prices, but the impression from the moment you walk in the door is one of business-like, polished cuisine that still has plenty of personality. The venue’s high ceilings, white walls, and high-shine metal surfaces make you feel as if you’re in a cathedral of cuisine. We were welcomed warmly by the maître’d and the waiting staff, who served us promptly and discreetly throughout our meal.
Frequented, it seems, primarily, by businesspeople working in the area, the emphasis is on good food served quickly and well. In terms of the restaurant’s ethos and personality, chef José Andrés’ proclamation on the front of the menu (pictured above) appealed greatly and set up our expectations. Thankfully this maxim was proved right, with the food we ate in Zaytinya’s among the best we experienced in America.
So just what did we eat exactly? The four-course menu at $22 seemed just too good to pass up, and we were very glad to have chosen it. Within the parameters of the “set menu” there is still plenty of choice: for each course, you have four choices, of which all arrive in perfectly-dimensioned and appropriately-timed portions. I adore chickpeas but felt that hummos followed by falafel would have been a bit much – so I kept the hummos, but followed it instead with arayes (lamb and tahini stuffed pita) and adana kebabs (which I know is lamb, then lamb, but shhh). All were seasoned in a unique and balanced way, with high-quality ingredients used throughout. Naturally, iced water was supplied regularly the entire time for a refreshing lunch.
And what of dessert? This time you have two choices: Greek yoghurt, served with honey and apricots, and “Turkish delight” (a deconstructed version of the classic sweet, consisting of walnut ice cream, yoghurt mousse, honey gelée, orange-caramel sauce, and caramelised pine nuts). Both were beautifully presented and went down like a dream. You definitely feel satisfied, not stuffed, at the end of your meal, and at no point do you feel rushed.
Unfortunately, Zaytinya’s don’t serve any hot drinks at all to finish a meal with (not even any mint tea), so we ended up going next door to Starbucks for coffee and free wifi. A shame, because we would have happily stayed. We would without doubt visit again the next time we are in DC for the swift, organised and friendly service, chatty yet not intrusive atmosphere, excellent value for money, and most of all, the high quality, traditional yet unusual food. Would recommend to all.