All In for Olive Oil at Zaytinya in Washington, DC
January 17, 2014
WASHINGTON, DC, US – From skincare to cuisine to religious ritual, olive oil is the darling of the Mediterranean. Behind nearly every enviably glowing complexion and tasty dish of the region is a bottle of the good stuff. So, what better to name a pan-Mediterranean restaurant than for the green-tinted elixir itself?
Zaytinya−celeb chef José Andrés’s Mediterranean venture in Washington, DC−means olive oil in Turkish. And a trip here means you’re in for a night of practically bathing in the stuff. The menu draws from Turkish, Greek, and Lebanese recipes and is based on the concept of mezze, which are sharable small plates. Get things off to an “oily” start with Greek olives marinated in oregano and Greek olive oil. Then, move on to a selection of veggies, seafood, meat, and poultry items prepared with a hit of the heart-healthy fat.
There are many traditional and recognizable selections here, like kebabs, falafel, and baba ghannouge. But, this being José Andrés (who made his name with molecular gastronomy), there are an equal amount of surprising choices. Broccoli saganaki, snail kibbeh, and veal souvlaki are just a few of Andrés imaginative creations. Of course, second only to olive oil in the Mediterranean’s lusty culinary culture is wine; the restaurant’s extensive selection of wines from Greece and Levant proves the point.
And, just as Mediterranean denizens treasure family and friends as much as food, Zaytinya encourages the commingling of food and community. The sharable plates and long communal tables invite groups of friends and relatives to break bread (and olive oil) together. The packed bar is perpetually convivial, and the dining room’s cobalt blue accent walls seem to practically vibrate with Mediterranean cheeriness. Plus, the soaring ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and friendly service infuse an airy, sociable vibe. Weekend brunch is especially congenial, particularly if you’re the type who likes olives in her omelette and Greek yogurt with honey on her pancakes.
So, we think it’s fair to say that Andrés has succeed in bringing the Eastern Mediterranean to DC’s Chinatown, just like he’s brought broccoli to saganaki and snails to kibbeh. Heck, we bet he’s even the kind who could figure out a way to mix oil and water! Only if it was really good olive oil, of course.
Read more about Zaytinya in our Washington, DC Guide.