With all the 'Zaytinya' rage via Top chef and various food blogs Justin and I decided that we absolutely MUST see what all the fuss is about.
Zaytinya is a Greek restaurant that serves 'mezze' meaning small plates (kind of like spanish tapas or chinese dim sum). I was really excited about this trip so I perused the menu before we went and picked out everything I wanted to get. Unfortuantely, as is the case with many restaurants, not everything that was on their on-line menu was actually being served the day we went.
It was terribly hard to get a reservation but we did using Open table and at least a week before (we tried last minute the weekend before that but they were booked solid!). This seemed a very good idea because though they accept walk-ins they will make you wait for awhile at the front door if you don't have a reservation, even if msot of the tables in the restaurant are empty (as we saw happened to other coupled when we walked in).
I love Mediterranean food and have done mezze before so I know whats worth the money and what isn't. Just remember, they always get you with the cheese and spreads that they offer. You can end up paying 7.00 for tzatziki when most of the other dishes that you order still come with a good few glops of tzatziki themselves. This also happens with the cheeses. Also, many mezze restaurants already give you dippers such as olive oil with balsamic (which was divine) or a roasted red pper spread (like at Cava). They also give you pita bread for free and keep refilling it-meaning that you dont have to spend 9.00 on flavored/seasoned/stuffed pita bread (pide).
Taking these things into account Justin and I started off with Kolokithokeftedes-zucchini and cheese patties with a caper yogurt sauce and one of their 'specials'-a play on spanokopita where it was phyllo dough stuffed with ground turkey meat, feta cheese and accompanied by some really bad mayonaises sauce (another version of tzatziki?). Anywho, the patties were soggy and not cheesy at all. The taste was bland and not something I would really want to eat again. The phyllo dough cigar tasted okay but it didn't seem at all greek and was nothing special (plus it had that gross sauce with it).
A little put out Justin and I moved onto the meats and ordered Kibbeh-beef and wheat fritters, almonds, pine nuts, currants, labneh, Shortrib Kapama-braised shortribs
spiced tomato stew, Hünkãr Begendi-traditional Turkish braised lamb shank eggplant kefalograviera purée.
We were being brave by ordering the fritter but it turned out to be my favorite dish of the night. They came out looking like little brown doughnuts, which were more crispy and bready, sweet and filled with pine nuts. They also came with a more tasty white tzaziki like sauce.
The shortrib kapama was tender but the 'spiced tomato stew' had no spices. it was like eating straight tomato sauce. Then the braised lamb shank, also tender, came with a sauce that could only be described as a creamy gravy (much too heavy)-Justin told me he thought it might do well on a thanksgiving turkey. I just kept asking myself if this place is really greek?
Feeling a bit putout and dissapointed Justin suggested we get another special-the fried potatoes stuffed with feta cheese on top of a cranberry sauce. I tried one and couldn't bring myself to eat a second but Justin seemed to enjoy them. They tasted bitter...
To end the night I was psyched to get the zaklava-which was on their website-crispy phyllo, hazelnut cream, chocolate ganache, honey-cardamom sause, labneh sorbet. However, it was NOT on the deset menu (I was crushed) so we got the Turkish Delight- walnut ice cream with Skotidakis Farm goat’s milk yogurt mousse, honey geleé, orange-caramel sauce, caramelized pine nuts. It was okay-the honey gelee was this weird chewy gelatin textured stuff. The icecream was good but it was icecream. Not worth $8.
Sigh. I dont know if maybe the cheeses and spreads are the only fantabulous things at Zaytinya so that I missed out on all the 'good' stuff. Next time I will just satisfy my Greek mezze craving with a trip to Cava in Rockville and thoroughly enjoy myself.