Giving Zaytinya Another Try
Tonight a friend is taking me out for a much needed drink and a belated birthday dinner. I chose Zaytinya since I haven't been in well over a year and half and have been wanting to give it another try.
I wasn't thrilled with my meal there a couple of years ago and didn't really get what all the praise was about. But I'm open-minded so I'm willing to give it another shot. Any recommendations for must try items to make my meal a success??
Today, I was part of a group of two couples who ate a late lunch at Zaytinya. It was everyone's first visit to the restaurant. Unlike the posters who are expressing disappointment with their meals, everyone in our group was impressed and happy with the food.
I was most impressed with the vegetable mezze and the one fish dish we ordered. I was least impressed with the short ribs; they weren't as tender as they should have been, although I thought the flavor of the sauce was quite delicious.
roasted cauiflower (fantastic)
sauteed mushrooms with dates and almongs
(delicious but not ground-breaking)
Baby Squash couscous with lemon-tomato broth (amazingly wonderful)
iman bayildi (excellent but not ground-breaking)
merguez sausage with tomato and pepper stew (wonderful)
braised lamb shank and eggplant puree (lovely flavor combination)
Barbunia skordalia (the spot on execution of the frying coupled with the delicious potatoes made for an amazingly delicious dish)
Ottoman pilaff (a lovely foil for some of the excess sauces on the dishes)
I don't know if the fact that we ate at a totally off time of the day contributed to the quality of the food. I think we were one of six occupied tables in the whole restaurant. Food seemed to be whisked directly from the kitchen to our table and had a particularly fresh taste.
We ate enough excellent dishes that I haven't tasted elsewhere, that I wouldn't hesitate to eat there again.
We did get the cous cous with zucchini and it was my favorite dish we had.
Overall I came away with a similar feeling as last time---it's overrated and probably the weakest out of all of Andres' restaurants (although I haven't tried Oyamel yet).
We got the falafal which were fine. The cous cous which I thought was very good, the olive oil poached salmon which was fine. And the scallops which were good except I had a little sand in mine which means it wasn't cleaned properly.
I got the tangerine special drink which was good but when you got to the bottom it was all pulpy which was a little yuck!
There is nothing wrong with the food, but there is nothing spectacular either. There are so many other options (including small plates options) in the area that I can't really see returning.
I think if I was a young 20-something year old, or a college student with some money I would really think this place was great. But it doesn't impress me that much.
I guess if a young 20 something year old with money who doesn't have taste buds.
I only found it bland, except for those carrot fritters, just not in agreement that it's only for young people with nothing but money to spend. I'm broke and I'd go back with older people (family) since it's pretty unoffensive and the service was good when I was there.
The cauliflower IS amazing. I've enjoyed all the spreads, especially the red pepper/feta spread. I like the pide, and anything with grilled meat (beef, chicken and lamb have all been great). The zucchini cheese patties are yummy. The olive oil ice cream is very nice, but a little goes a long way. I've not had much luck with fish there, but SO can't eat shellfish so my options on the sea side of the menu are limited. Enjoy!
Do you eat lamb? My husband - who resisted going to Zaytinya for a loooong time - could live and die eating the dish that's basically like a crepe with ground lamb in it. I'm afraid you'd have to figure it out based on the descriptions, as I can't remember it, but he swears by it.
I get something new every time I go, so I don't have any regulars, but be bold and try something really different. Though I did go for a set-menu dinner once and they had the roasted cauliflower and it was amaaaaazing.
I agree, the place is overrated and it's not as great as everyone says (I think this is true for all of Jose's restaurants). Last time I went I had some pretty good cauliflower dish as well as the scallops. My friend is a waiter there and says the best things on the menu are the hummus and chicken kabob.
Would have to agree with the above sentiments. Jose's restaurants may be the most over-rated in the DC area. Of all of them, Zaytinya has provided the most consistent meals, so go forth and try again, but it continues to amaze me that his places win such rave reviews. As for what to get, the hummus is good (but is that really worth going to a restaurant for?) and the seafood dishes I've had in the past, scallops included, are decent. Good luck.