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Maydan - Chef Chris Morgan's Pan-Middle-Eastern in Blagden Alley from the Owners of Compass Rose


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Friends and I had dinner last night at the newly opened Maydan.  I hadn't realized that it was opening night; the bf had sent a Post write-up to our group when we negotiating dinner options, but somehow I'd missed the timing.  Front of house is still working out kinks -- more on that below -- but the food is already strong.  

So, the good first: the six of us ate our way through much of the menu's small plates, and everything was good or better.  Hummus (tahina, chickpeas, lemon) was classic, and the baba ghanoush (eggplant, tahina, garlic) was nicely smokey.  (Smokiness is pervasive -- unsurprising, given the giant hearth on which everything is cooked -- but many dishes also had a bit of sourness, which created a nice balance.)  The pillowy flatbread was delicious, and while we were initially a bit skeptical that we were only given two rounds for the six of us, servers were diligent about circling with warm refills.  Our favorite spread was the beet borani (yogurt, dill, black sesame), a vividly purple, bright, creamy puree.  Baby eggplant (Georgian walnut sauce, pomegranate) was interestingly nutty, pleasantly a bit sour, and laced with softened onions.  (I love onions.)  Rounds of eggplant (orange blossom water, honey, vinegar, red onion) were nicely balanced sweet-sour-a bit of char.  Halloumi (Dukkah (Egyptian spice blend), honey) was very tasty -- halloumi lovers, among whom I count myself, will be happy -- but like the hummus, on the classic end.  Grilled carrots (lemon, harissa) were probably the spicest dish, enjoyable but a bit one note as a result.  Shrimp and squid, both marinated in charmoula (lemon, garlic, parsley, saffron) and accompanied by lemon wedges, were well-cooked and appropriately charred.  (The squid had the tender, fudgey texture that I associate with cooking sous vide before grilling.)  Our carnivorous friends seemed to enjoy lamb and tenderloin (although some other cut was substituted in the prep that night) kebabs.  Our server suggested that we order all the condiments (which are only $1 each), but we went with five of the seven: charmoula, zhough (parsley, cilantro, cumin, serrano)ezme (tomato, onion, peppers, pomegranate molasses)toum (garlic, oil, lemon)tomato jam (sesame, cinnamon), passing on the more familiar tahina and harissa.  The most memorable were the toum, which was whipped -- I vaguely recall a mention of egg whites -- into a light mousse that reminded me of the texture of Nostos's excellent taramasalata, and the tomato jam, which was delicious but sweeter and more cinnamon-heavy than when I make my own, and consequently tasted less clearly of tomato.  Interesting cabbage (olive oil, lemon, mint) arrived as an afterthought when I mentioned at the end of our savory dishes that we hadn't yet received it, where it served as a nice palate cleanser, like a mint-heavy (and mayo free, of course) cabbage slaw.  (I bet it would have been excellent alongside some lamb.)  We ordered the two desserts (there's no dessert menu), both very good: a delicious rose-water soaked cake, and honey-drizzled, phyllo-encrusted mozzarella dusted with pistachios, which sounds odd but worked (think bizarro brie en croute).   

Three people opted for the Filfuli (Pepper) with Ilegal joven mezcal, blood orange, ginger, paprika, honey, and soda; it tasted like a refreshing artisanal orange soda that I could enjoy drinking all day in the summer.  Two ordered the Jnayney (Garden), with Greenhat gin, cucumber, fennel, dill, lemon, and arak; it was very herbal, with a primary fennel-seed flavor.  I was the only one to opt for wine instead of a cocktail, going with the Georgian Vino Terra (Rkatsiteli), the only by-the-glass option of five wines in the "skin contact" category.  I love skin contact wines -- be they refined or a deep amber glass of barnyard funk -- and consequently this was quite disappointing.  It looked totally white (not disqualifying as a satisfying skin-contact exemplar, as I love SP68), but I would never have guessed it had any contact from the taste.  (Overall, the wine list seem kind of expensive relative to food prices.  While there was one white, one rose, and two reds in the $30-$38 range, everything else jumped to $51 and higher.  The Vino Terra was $51 a bottle, and the next cheapest in that category is $67 before heading into the $80s.  Not a list designed to introduce diners to the pleasures of orange wine.  Contra Red Hen, which has six or seven orange bottles in the $45-65 range.)  

They were definitely experiencing new restaurant issues.  The restaurant itself is at the end of an alley just east of La Colombe, but there is no signage on the street or even on the restaurant to indicate where to go -- it's not even obvious that a restaurant could be at the end of the alley from the sidewalk -- which led to a lot of confusion in finding the place.  (When I mentioned it, I was told a sign will ultimately be put up.)  I'd made a reservation online, but we weren't ultimately seated until forty minutes after our reservation time, while we stood around the vestibule and watched staff (as many as four people at one point) huddle around an iPad attempting to figure out what to do with us.  We were eventually told that the system had automatically assigned us to a table that they subsequently realized wouldn't comfortably fit a larger group, so they were trying to figure out where else to put us, and then were waiting for one table to finish so that they could push two together somewhere else.  (We were told that they didn't want to tell the people to leave, which I wouldn't have expected them to do, but being told that felt a bit like we were to blame for our own impatience thirty minutes after our reservation time.)  Our table of lawyers joked after the fact that maybe we should have commandeered the iPad and seen if our LSAT logic game skills could have worked it out.  The bar area inside was too narrow and crowded to comfortably stand inside in an attempt to have a drink.  While multiple people thanked us for our patience, no one offered to get us drinks while we waited and nothing was taken off the bill in apology, and it never really felt like they were proactively solving the problem.  Rather, it felt like they realized they didn't have a table for us despite our reservation, so we were stuck waiting for one to free up.  (It's frustrating to feel like the staff's reaction to the situation was an apologetic shrug.)  The space itself -- two stories with a giant hearth as the focal point -- is very cozy and cool, and I love the smoke smell that permeates the place (although less so when something obviously burned at one point).  (And I wouldn't wear a coat or clothes that you don't want to smell like you've been hanging out near a campfire.)  It appears that no one communicated to our (very nice) waitress that we'd been waiting for so long; when we sat down, one friend immediately tried to order hummus and baba ghanoush after a snap glance at the menu only to be told (politely) that the restaurant preferred to take our entire order at one time.  When we pointed out that we had been waiting forty minutes to be seated and were starving, she apologized and said she'd put it in right away.  Not a huge deal, but the awkward interaction didn't help our moods and could have been avoided.  (Even better would have been a preemptive acknowledgement of our wait and query whether we wanted something right away.)  Bottom line: everyone was very friendly, and these are the sorts of kinks that I expect time will help them work out.  But they should think about how they'll deal with frustrated diners in the future, because there will definitely be times when a table lingers and the restaurant will be in the same boat.  Oh, and I'll bet any amount of money that when Sietsema reviews it, he will complain mightily about how loud the music is; not a problem I usually notice, but it did impede conversation here.  

But once our hanger subsided thanks to hoovering the flatbread and dips, we very much enjoyed our dinner.  We'll be happy to return.  

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We went to Maydan last night.  It's definitely interesting to see the kitchen in the middle of the restaurant.  We tried the hummus, halloumi, shrimp, squid, aleppo (ground lamb skewer) and koobideh (ground beef skewer).

The hummus was definitely not as good as Zahav's (not as creamy and very heavy on the tahini).  The halloumi came topped with lots of sesame seeds - just so you know.  Both the shrimp and squid were cooked well - I liked the seasoning but they weren't particularly interesting or compelling.  The two skewers were both fine - nicely seasoned, tender, but not particularly juicy.  At $12 per skewer, they're just a bit more expensive than your local sit-down  kebab shop such as Rose's or Shamshiry.  The last picture was the kebabs I had at Thanasis, one of the 3 famous kebab shops at Monastiraki Square in Athens Greece.  For 8 euros, they served up 4 super delicious lamb kebabs on warm bread topped with tomatoes and onions - I could not finish it - that's a bargain!

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Went on my "Maydan" voyage yesterday and had a nice meal with some caveats (similar to those above). 

We arrived after looking at a few houses (considering a move back in to the District) and we were starving. Choosing between Red Hen and Maydan, and after having pasta this weekend, went with Maydan. It is very difficult to find, and I should have remembered the first post stating this. It's the same address at Colombe, and you go into that alley, all the way to the end, and it's the last door on your right. Very challenging, and I'm not sure why there isn't even a temporary sign on Florida or near Colombe. We had to ask the Colombe barista to help us. 

Anyway, we got in and were told that we could be seated in 30 minutes (at about 815p) or we could try at the bar. It was completely full when we got in, so we put our names down, but within  minutes there were 2 bar seats available.

I ordered a glass of wine, a montepulciano, and then the bartender sort of disappeared and we had to get someone else's attention to get LLSP's wine order in. We asked about the skin contact wines (these are orange wines, right?), only one available by glass still, and kind of pricey, so she got the grenache/syrah blend. The prices were in high in absolute number, but they may have been good wines, I don't know, and I didn't care to look it up. 

We asked what were the must orders, and they mentioned the whole chicken. Pics on Yelp looked great, but I was not in "whole chicken" mode. Was $35, not terribly priced for what would probably feed us both and leave at least one of us with leftovers. Anyway, the sauce thing - I really don't like that they push ordering all of them - "They're a dollar each, why not?". Um, because if that's so cheap, than slightly up the prices of everything and serve them all. It's just a weird concept to have these "great" 6-7 sauces and push selling them all.

Anyway, we ordered our whole meal (I didn't get the sense they cared if we got it all at same time or not - maybe that glitch was fixed?) - 2 dips - baba ghanoush and muhamarra (walnut/red pepper, pomegranate), 3 condiments - harissa, ezme (tomato, onion, pepper, pomegranate), zhough (parsley, cilantro, cumin, serrano), grilled shrimp (I wanted sardines, and was aggressively vetoed), lamb kebab, and the grilled carrots. After the order was in, a minute later, I also asked for fattoush (more on that later).

The dips came first, and they were very good. A fair portion for the price -$7 and $9, respectively. BG was smoky and tasty, a little oily, one of the better non-Detroit versions I've had. I really liked the muhamarra. A touch sweet, because of the pomegranate molasses and textured b/c of the walnut. This came with the fresh bread that's made behind you in the pit. Then the condiments came, small ketchup sized containers of it. The harissa was fire! Very tasty, spicy, but not to be used much since it overpowers. The grilled carrots were covered with it, and those came next. Really good, grilled well, could have a little more browning/char but tasty anyway. The shrimps came next, and those were delish. They are grilled in chermoula (lemon, garlic, parsley, saffron) and spiced well, crispy on outside, chewy on inside. Don't need a condiment with it, but a touch of the harissa to add a little fire to it didn't hurt. Lamb came and it was topped with pistachio. Went great with the zhough sauce. Fattoush was forgotten ... it was okay, we were full and didn't need more food.

Incidentally, the fire alarm went off mid-meal and was on for probably 2-3 minutes. I asked bartender if that happened all the time (oh, you know, because of the raging fire in the middle of the restaurant), and he said it was the first time. Seemed unlikely, as none of the staff reacted in any noticeable manner. 

They asked us if we wanted dessert and we didn't ... they gave us digestif gratis - Montenegro + Johnnie Walker. Perfect for a frigid night - I'm gonna do those at home!

$82.50 including two drinks + tips, and we were full. 

So, some glitches but this place has a great chassis - and the "quality" of the food is really high. The environment/ambience is fantastic, especially when it's in the teens outside. It's location probably hurts it early on, because a place like this in Shaw or 14th with have lines out the door and 2-3 hour waits. 

(If the review seems slightly negative, it isn't meant to be ... I went to Stowe this weekend and it was -15F and no fresh snow. They got 12 inches last night and finally are back over zero degrees. GRRRRRRRRRRRR)

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5 hours ago, Simul Parikh said:

It's location probably hurts it early on, because a place like this in Shaw or 14th with have lines out the door and 2-3 hour waits. 

Well ....  and I'm sure the favorable Post review isn't going to help.  Looking forward to trying this out when the crowds die down a bit.

Also, this is not Blagden Alley which is off of 9th St.  There is a La Colombe in both places, which is even more confusing!

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On 12/4/2017 at 2:26 PM, Ericandblueboy said:

So the entrance is in a alleyway off of Florida Ave? Also, is the hummus as good as Zahav's?

no. but it is really good, as is the whole vibe and atmosphere. i had a lovely dinner there recently. part of that was due to the food, which was good (particularly the muhammara, and the hummus) but also in large part due to the vibe. it felt fun and warm like going to a nice dinner party. 

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This place is what Zaytinya and Kapnos wishes they were.  Had a great meal there ordering the majority of the large menu with friends.  They originally put us at a very small and uncomfortable table in the corner downstairs, but happily accommodated our request to move tables.  All the dips, spreads and "condiments" were great; the only thing that disappointed was the whole chicken and the breads, neither of which were bad, but neither of which lived up to standards set at other places.  I particularly liked the tangy eggplant.  Apparently their $100 lamb shoulder is outstanding, but they had sold out of it by the time we requested it.  Next time...

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From Tommy's chat today:

Quote

 

FOOD FLASH: The co-executive chefs at one of Washington’s most sought-after reservations tell me they’re parting ways with the restaurant they helped open two years ago. Which is another way of announcing that Gerald Addison and Chris Morgan are leaving their live fire show at Maydan on Nov. 19. 

“It’s bittersweet,” says Addison. “There’s no good time to leave a restaurant,” says Morgan. “Our love for Middle Eastern food will never change.” But even before they partnered with Rose Previte to create Maydan, the chefs knew they wanted to eventually open a place of their own, and now that they have a location in the Navy Yard, the time seems right. 

As for Maydan, Previte has already tagged a successor in the kitchen: Marcelle Afram, the executive chef at Bluejacket, the microbrewery and restaurant in SE Washington. The flavors will be familiar ones to her. “She’s Syrian/Lebanese and a first generation American,” says her future employer. 

 

 

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