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Zaytinya - a review

JBL | Apr 7, 2003 11:02 AM

Finally got to check out chef Andres’ new place with some friends from out of town. We arrived at 9:45 and were told it would be a 2 hour wait. We ventured into the packed bar and eventually were able to order a round of drinks. By the time we finished with one round of drinks, 20 minutes after showing up, our table was ready. Not sure how 2 hours turned into 20 minutes, but nobody complained. We sat upstairs at the round table in the middle of the five table room.
I am only going to report on the dishes I tried.
I was a bit disappointed in the Fattoush salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, onion and green peppers). I know it’s not tomato season, but I thought a restaurant of that caliber would be able to find some better tomatoes. I am confused why the dice of cucumber was cut much smaller than the tomatoes, onions and the peppers and I could not detect the pomegranate reduction as advertised. However, the fried pita made a nice addition texturally and was also delicious. I suggest they take this item of the menu until they get better tomatoes.
The Shish Taouk was outta this world. This was the best chicken shish dish I have ever had. The chicken was cooked perfectly and the Lebanese spices flavorful. The thin sliced onions that accompanied the chicken were also excellent.
Oysters baked with bay leaf. This was a let down because I was very excited to try this. $5.75 gets you 2 oysters that seemed to lose all their brininess in the cooking procedure. They are not completely sucked, just sorta unhinged and filled with olive oil and spices. It results in more of a steamed oyster. Plus, I’m not sure if bay leaf and oyster are a good marriage.
Shrimp with dill, lemon and olive oil. Great dish. Flavor was right on, not overwhelmed by dill, and the shrimp were cooked to perfection. You know a place is good if they don’t overcook shrimp.
Seared sardines. This was a special that I simply couldn’t pass up, although; I prefer my sardines grilled. Not much to say about this, you either like sardines or you don’t. Not the best I have ever had, but definitely good.
I wanted to try the seared salmon but they were out.
A glass of muscatel from Lebanon. Not bad, but it’s best to leave the dessert wines to the Germans. They had a moderate selection of dessert wines, ports and sherries. Based on my dessert I probably should have ordered a port.
I had a great molten center chocolate cake served with chocolate sauce and cardamom. I love when chocolate is paired with a spice, and this dessert was a great example. The cardamom was an infused cream that was not quite firm, but not as light as a foam. The cake itself was rather small but very good. Not sure why it was topped with white sesame seeds. I guess it was to serve as a textural note, but they just got into my teeth. One bite of the cake revealed 1 or 2 grains of fleur de sel. Very good.
Overall, I was pleased. The servers, like Jaleo, seemed knowledgeable of the menu. My guess is that there a plenty of very good dishes and some absolutely stellar dishes. The secret is figuring out which ones are stellar. I would like to explore the wine menu as I have never seen a wine list that covers this region so extensively. This a great place to take friends, and it is very reasonable priced as long as you don’t order too many of their cocktails, which are pretty delicious.

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