Report on visits to Zaytinya, Central and ChurchKey
We visited DC yesterday without much advanced planning, and owing to the cool, gray weather and occasional sprinkle, kept mostly indoors. Luckily, that's where the food generally can be found, so we ate well. Generally I prefer small, artisan-style restaurants, but without any familiarity with the DC dining scene, we ended up eating well at more formal establishments than I'd normally choose.
We had lunch at Central, where we had reservations, though they didn't seem necessary at 1:15 on a Monday afternoon. I liked the constant hum of the place, which was mostly full of suit-wearing business types. We ordered the fried chicken and roasted salmon with barley and onion cream. Salmon was great and perfectly cooked. The fried chicken I didn't like. The waitress informed us that it was sous vide, so I suppose the meat was prepared in that method, then the crust was applied and fried later. The texture was interesting--quite light--but I much prefer Ad Hoc's chicken as a high-end counterpart or many dive-y shacks with flavorful, well-spiced crust.
We dropped by ChurchKey for a beer and liked it a lot, though this was early in the evening, and the low key atmosphere allowed us to chat with the bartender about the many, many beer selections. I liked that they offered two sizes (4 oz and a full glass) to encourage sampling. The menu is extensive, but categorized by style (crisp, hoppy, smoky) to help with selecting among the 30 or 40-something beers on tap. We didn't notice until we left that there was also a case of bottled beers. An interesting set of beer bites, some modeled after classic bar food or 70's toaster oven after-school snacks, but we had dinner plans and didn't try any.
Zaytinya acted as a pinch-hitter after we realized Ray's Hell Burger doesn't accept cash and we had none. Neither of the last couple of places I've lived has offered interesting Middle Eastern or Greek food, so I was excited to check out the Tunisian, Lebanese and Greek mezze. We especially liked the htipiti (roasted red peppers with feta and thyme), seasonal mushrooms cooked with dates, and octopus in split pea puree. Only complaint: the beet and cress salad, which our waiter recommended, was really so small it thwarted sharing. We received two quarter-sized candy cane beets cut in half and dropped onto a little fluff of cress and shaved fennel.