A friend of mine was meeting me downtown for some museum strolling this weekend and she suggested Zaytinya for lunch. This was my first experience with any Jose Andres restaurant and if they're all as wonderful as Zaytinya, I can't wait to try the rest.
Got there early so I sat at the bar and chatted with the bartender about the weather and boating. Wasn't in the mood for a drink yet but it was a nice way to pass the time. Sat down once friend arrived and decided on the Orange Blossom Apricot Cocktail and she got the Lemonos Maximus. Both were perfect spring alcoholic drinks and really whet the appetite.
My friend is a vegetarian and I like to share so most of our dishes were veggie. We ordered the falafel, tomato fritters with onion and mint, spanakopita, imam bayildi, asparagus with olive oil and lemon, pastirma, and a special salad with heirloom tomatoes, capers, greens and olives. For dessert, we split the turkish coffee chocolate.
The salad with heirloom tomatoes came out first and was wonderful. Mixed greens with a nice mixture of heirloom tomatoes, yellow and red, as well as capers, green olives and olive oil. Tasted like spring and the balance of the sweet tomatoes and salty capers was just right. The falafel were 6 perfect little fried pieces and the spicing was just right. I did not try the spanakopita as I don't like feta but my friend wouldn't shared anyway...it's the one dish she loves above all else there! She seemed happy.
The asparagus dish was also great, like spring on a plate. 10 wonderfully firm spears sprinkled with sea salt, in a lemon olive oil sauce with greek oregano. I tried replicating this at home and failed so it just means I'll have to go back for more. :) Next came the pastirma, which is basically the forerunner for pastrami. Thinly-sliced cured loin of beef with Turkish spices, drizzled with olive oil. My sister-on-law's family is half Egyptian and we always have pastirma at get togethers. I love this stuff and hadn't been able to find it around here. Now I have and it was just as good as the pastirma I've had at their dinners.
The imam bayildi was next. I could have ordered 6 more of these...it was roasted eggplant with tomatoes and onions. The eggplant was meltingly soft and tomatoes and onions with olive oil were a nice counterpoint. Sweet, slightly bitter, delicious. The last dish was the tomato fritters with mint. 4 medium size, just crisped patties with sweet tomatoes, savory onions and mint. I could have used a bit more mint but the dish was delicious regardless.
For dessert, the turkish coffee chocolate was unbelievably decadent, and probably more food than we intended to eat but I'd have this again. Warm chocolate cake with a slightly molten center, bittersweet chocolate coffee cream and cardamom cream. If we could have licked the plate, we would have.
Service was good, with fresh pita coming on a regular basis. I like the fact that you don't know what dish is coming out next. I suppose you could ask the waiter to bring them out in a specific order but I wouldn't bother. I will definitely return to Zaytinya.
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