When it opened in 2002, Zaytinya, with its full-on, authentic, and wide-ranging tastes of the Middle East, Greece, and Turkey, was quite the culinary adventure for Washingtonians. (Crispy brussel sprouts with coriander seed, barberries, and garlic, oh my! Olive oil ice cream. How interesting!) But Washington was a different place then. Sixteen years and a boom of restaurant openings later, Zaytinya is an old friend. Those Brussels sprouts are a favorite among the dishes that appear on the four-page menu, which, in truth, has barely changed over the years. It consists, primarily, of mezze, which are Mediterranean small dishes, although some entrees appear as well. Other signature dishes include scallops in yogurt and dill sauce; roasted cauliflower with sultans, caper berries, and pine-nut puree; spanakopita with house made filo; and kibbeh nayeh (Lebanese-style veal tartare with bulgur wheat, radishes, mint, and pita chips). Zaytinya is enormous, seating 230 in the attractive dining rooms, another 52 on stools at the bar, and 65 outside on the patio. Best way to enjoy Zaytinya? Bring a crowd and order an array of tapas. Instant party!
- Elise Hartman Ford