Last night I had the pleasure of an eight-course dinner at Zaytinya. It was a dinner that was focused around nine Spanish wines. It was my first time at Zaytinya; after all of the posts about it on the bored, I was looking forward to the meal. We started with 1+1=3 Cava brut with some passed bits. This is my everyday sparkling wine, so it was like a welcome friend, and as enjoyable as always. The passed food was a falafel that was quite good, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The other was the Havuc Koftesi, which I was not looking forward to, as I do not like carrots. I am now happy that I did give it a try, as it was quite good. When I tried the first havoc koftesi it was right out of the fryer, and was a little napalm bomb in my mouth. Luckily I had some of the cava near by to cool down my mouth. I was not so lucky with the second one that I ate; it seemed to take all of the skin off the top of my mouth, but worth every bit of pain.
When we finally sat down, we were poured a Neo 2001, it was good, but still a little tight, and needs another two years of aging, but I can taste the fruit starting to wake-up. The first food course was a Mavrofassoula Me Loucaniko (grilled pork and orange rind sausage with bean stew) and Spanakopita (spinach and feta wrapped in phyllo). The sausage was quite enjoyable, and I loved the hint of orange in it. The bean stew was black-eyed peas, and was good, but I have never been a fan of them. The spanakopita is well done, a great balance of spinach and feta, but I think that phyllo was the star of this dish; it did not taste like baked paste like most that I run into.
The second course disappointed me. Like the first it (and all of the other course, minus desert) had two components. The first was Cabbage Dolmades (stuffed with rice and mushrooms and served with avgolemono sauce). Most of the people at the table loved this, but I detest most cabbage, and this was no exception, I did eat the rice, which was very flavorful. The second component was Lago Krassatos Me Fakies (braised rabbit with lentils). The flavor of this was good, but it was impossible to eat the piece of rabbit leg that I got. It was so boney and not very meeting. The lentils were good, but not remarkable. The wine that was served with this course was Astales 2001 (100% Tempranillo). It was very good, and showing well.
The third course started with Manusco 2002. This is a 100% Granche wine that is not currently available in the United States. It is going to be on sale soon. It was a wonderful offering, but at $80 a bottle, a little steep for Granche. The first component of this course was Kolokithokeftedes (zucchini-cheese patties with yogurt-caper sauce) that was surprisingly good. The top was very crisp, and the zucchini was tender and flavor full. The second component was Ortiki Gemisto me Domata ke Feta (quail stuffed with tomatoes and feta, served with sautéed fingerling potatoes with wine and coriander). I am not sure what happened to my quail, but it was not stuffed with anything, my tablemates quail was stuff, but not mine, but other than that, the dish was good, and the quail and fingerlings were cooked well.
At this point I am starting to get full, and am not sure how I am going to be able to eat my next course, but I had to give it a try. The wine was Gran Elias Mora 2001 it was ripe and rounded, and was much better than the 2000 offering. The first food component to arrive was Ottoman Rice Pilav. It left me wanting more, it had pistachios and dates in it, but I only tasted one pistachio, and really was wishing for more nuts to offset the sweetness and chewy texture of the dates. The second was a Pork Loin with Visne-Demi (a sweet cherry sauce). This was the worst dish of the meal. The pork was over-cooked to the point of being tough and relatively flavorless, and the Visne-Demi was sticky and cloyingly sweet.
At this point I cannot believe that I have three courses left. I feel like I am about to explode, but I must persevere. This time the meat showed-up first, it was Beef Tenderloin with Argyros Vinsanto Sauce and roasted shallots. Even though I could barely drink the wine that we were served I had to try the beef. It tasted fine, but I find that tenderloin that is cut against the grain at less than an inch has a weird texture, almost like it is falling apart. The sauce was a bit sweeter than I normally like on beef, but it worked well together. The roasted shallots were perfectly done, and if I had any room left in my stomach I would have eaten all of them. The second component that arrived was Manitaria Saganaki (Oyster, Shitake & Cremini mushrooms topped with Kefalograviera Cheese). The only problem with this dish is that I didnt have a large enough stomach to eat it all. This was perfectly cooked, and my dish was completely covered in cheese. The wine was Neo Punta Esencia 2001. It is still very tight, and will take a number of years before it opens-up, but it really has potential and will be a great wine when it is ready.
At this point I was about to fall out of my chair, I was so full, and the next course was something I would normally love, but at this point, I cannot even breath let alone swallow. This time the components came on one platter, it was Hunkar Begendi (Braised lamb shank with eggplant-Kefalograviera purree) and Kolokithakia (steamed zucchini with ladolemono). I only tasted a bit of this dish, simply because I was so full. The lamb was perfect; it was a little sweet, but not cloyingly so. The star of the dish though was the eggplant puree. The puree was seasoned perfectly, I think that I picked-up a little clove in it, and it reminded me of the best pumpkin pie that I have ever had. The wine was the star of the night. It was Palomero 2001, it is another 100% Tempranillo from 80 year old vines. It was open and ready to drink. The body was opulent, and filled with quite a bit of rich black fruit. I cannot wait to pick-up some for my own collection.
The final course was a Turkish Coffee Chocolate Cake. Since I did not eat much of the last course, I had some room in my stomach so that I could enjoy this. It was very good, the cardamom was is a great match with chocolate, and I wish more people would match them. I am not sure what exactly Turkish syrup is, but it added a nice sweetness to the dish. Silavno Garcia Monastrall 2003, was the wine that accompanied this dish, it is a superb fortified wine that is made with vine raisoned grapes.
The dinner was for forty people, so I can excuse most of the deficiencies, but it was not as good as I expected. I do plan on going back and trying Zaytina ordering off of the menu.