DC Restaurant Review – Great Tapas Dining in Washington, DC at Zaytinya
Zaytinya is one of my favorite places to eat in Washington, DC.It serves mostly mezze (little) plates with Mediterranean and Middle East, notably Greek, Turkish and Lebanese influences.
Located in the heart of Penn Quarter, just a block from the National Portrait Gallery and Museum of American Art, the restaurant is warm and open, with high ceiling and a fair amount of noise and “buzz”, and often crowded without feeling overly packed.
If you desire something a bit quieter or away from the hustle, ask for a table in the loft dining area.
A meal at Zaytinya isn’t complete unless you start with a plate of Hummus drizzled with olive oil and a basket of their puffy hot pita bread.
For a first course try some of the goat or feta cheese offerings, such as Greek sheep’s milk Feta or the creamy Tavor from Israel. For something more classic, try the Pipe Dreams – goat cheese wrapped in grape leaves with tomato and kalamata olive.
If cheese isn’t for you, the fire-roasted eggplant spread, called Baba Ghannouge is excellent.
My personal favorites are just about anything on the menu that features lamb — notably the Soujok Spetzofi, spicy lamb and beef sausages in a rich tomato pepper sauce, the lamb Kebab, or the boneless lamb short rib in a flavorful tomato-cinnamon stew, that’s so good you might want to order a second (or third) plate.
Last week, I tried the Chicken Melanzano, a slow-cooked chicken breast with pomegranate and eggplant puree ($8.50), that was so melt in your mouth tender and flavorful, I wanted to order a second serving.
For something a bit different, sample the braised Rabbit Stifado, served in a rich red wine sauce with pearl onions or try another personal favorite, the pork and orange rind sausage over a mashed bean stew.
Since I love snails, and rarely see them on most menus, I try to never miss a chance to order the snails at Zaytinya, which are prepared in a garlicky broth with pureed potatoes.
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If you’re looking for something interesting from the sea, order a plate of the tender and flavorful grilled Santorini baby Octopus with split pea puree.
For something meatless, try a salad, such as one of the classics – Tabouleh or Fattoush or a baby beet salad.
Desserts are Mediterranean-influenced with items such as an impressive cherry sorbet with black cherries and vanilla yogurt cream, or a warm chocolate cake with chocolate flan.
The only place I feel Zaytinya falls down a bit is in their wine offerings. Most of the wines are from Greece, Lebanon, Turkey or Israel, and I find them (mostly the reds) a bit drab and overpriced for the quality and flavor. Expect to pay $8 – $12 for a glass of wine. The Greek Sauvignon Blanc currently offered is rather good however.
The large and busy bar with a couple dozen bar stools plus additional tables draws a professional, well-dressed clientele, ranging from their late 20s through 50s.
Mezze plates run $6.00 – $12.00 each and offer a nice sized sampling for two diners. Expect to order 3-6 per couple, depending on your appetite.
Service is consistently good, and the bartenders are friendly and helpful if you want to try one of their unique specialty cocktails.
Zaytinya is a top favorite of The DC Traveler.
Hours - Monday and Sunday – 11:30 a.m. – 10:00 pm, Tuesday – Thursday 11:30 – 11:30, Friday and Saturday 11:30 – Midnight.
Brunch is served on weekends until 5:00 p.m.
Reservations – Not required, but expect longer waits (up to an hour)on weekends. Limited reservations are available by calling the restaurant or through OpenTable.
Parking – Valet parking is available nightly after 5:15 p.m. for $11.00 or there is limited metered street and paid garage parking available in the area. But if you park ion the street, watch for rush hour parking restrictions.