Jump to content
JLK

Zaytinya, Mediterranean Tapas at 9th & G Streets - Chef Michael Costa Replaces Mike Isabella

Recommended Posts

I was also at Zaytinya this weekend and I saw the black crusty lamb roasting in the kitchen, but nobody ordered it, and it wasn't on the menu. Can you get a small order of this lamb or is it a whole shoulder or nothing kind of deal? How much was the whole shoulder?

I don't know if you can get a small order, because while I thought I was ordering 4 "orders," it was the whole shoulder that ended up center table.

The whole shoulder was a most reasonable $75. Easily could've fed 10 normal humans.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It will be interesting to see if Zaytinya maintains it's high standards and/or how long that standard will take to settle in under a new executive chef. Some places don't miss a beat.

It will also be fun to see if Mike is able to make it on "his own," although there must be a major money backer behind the scenes. I love cicchetti.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not sure that it's terribly surprising that, in the post-Top Chef afterglow, Isabella's going out on his own.

I am, however, a bit surprised that he's sticking around DC, but I'm not in the least bit upset about that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Zaytinya is always crowded so it was hard to tell if there was any surge of folks trying the place one last time before Mike Isabella leaves, but it was hoppin' Thursday night, and the chef was making the rounds on the floor, all smiles and handshakes. Four of us ordered about a dozen plates of varying success. My mom, on her first visit here, unfortunately couldn't be convinced to order outside of her comfort zone for Greek food, and predictably the dolmades, tabouleh, and falafel she got were among the most boring plates on the table. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the spanikopita, however, which I would order again next time I'm there - a fresh, tasty spinach and cheese mixture that was rolled into a log of crisp fillo. Very nice and I appreciated the innovation of the shape, which gave a higher filo to filling ratio than you'd get in the traditional preparation.

For me the real highlights of the meal were the fresh chickpeas (messy, but so hard to stop eating), a plate of wonderful little crabcakes, and the roasted cauliflower with raisins, pine nuts, and capers, a flavor combination I adore. The most eagerly anticipated part of the meal was easily the most disappointing - a lamb shank prepared sous vide before being roasted prior to serving. My dad hit the nail on the head when he described it as "mushy." Flavors were ok, but it was pretty hard not to be distracted by the off-putting texture. A miss.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
For me the real highlights of the meal were the fresh chickpeas (messy, but so hard to stop eating), a plate of wonderful little crabcakes, and the roasted cauliflower with raisins, pine nuts, and capers, a flavor combination I adore. The most eagerly anticipated part of the meal was easily the most disappointing - a lamb shank prepared sous vide before being roasted prior to serving. My dad hit the nail on the head when he described it as "mushy." Flavors were ok, but it was pretty hard not to be distracted by the off-putting texture. A miss.

I find Zaytinya's vegetable mezze to be superior to their meat mezze for the three times that I frequent the place. The best dish I had was probably a peach based salad on the specials menu.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lunch at the bar Monday was my first visit since Mike Isabella departed. The menu was edited and prices seem to have crept to the point that I questioned the "value" of small plates. Service at the bar, as always, is efficient and friendly. Only shared three dishes: roasted cauliflower (delicious, but not a large portion for $8), the chicken shishtwook (fine, also small) and the grilled octopus. The bartender recommended the octopus as the signature dish. The meat was grilled crisp, and rendered a bit dry. It was still very tasty. But, for $12, it was maybe 8 small pieces - and the puree underneath is not enough to boost this to "filling" status. Of course, I enjoyed the hot bread with the oil in large quantities.

My last bar lunch at Jaleo had me thinking "this is a pretty good value for the money," and I had the opposite feeling at Zaytinya. I still love the bar, and the bright dining room, and the wonderful patio, but I don't think this place will lure me back soon as there are just too many other choices in the area and/or at the price point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brother was in town over the weekend for a conference, along with the vegan sister-in-law. They booked a table for Zaytinya for a saturday night, during RW, and I somewhat cringed. But a table of seven of us sat down and ate and ate and ate. And we ate well. Some highlights:

HORTA SALATA salad of cooked and raw greens, smoked olives, fava Santorini, ladolemono, pistachios. So good we ordered it twice!

CRISPY BRUSSEL AFELIA brussel sprouts, coriander seed, barberries, garlic yogurt.

SEASONAL MUSHROOMS sautéed mushrooms, dates, toasted almonds. Didn't sound too exciting but perhaps one of the best dishes of the night.

HÜNKíR BEĞENDI braised lamb shank, eggplant-kefalograviera puree. Love this dish.

ADANA KEBAB skewered ground lamb, house-made harissa, grilled tomatoes, sumac, onions.

FRIED SQUID crispy squid, garlic-yogurt sauce. Super tender squid.

ÍMAM BAYILDI roasted eggplant stuffed with onions, tomatoes.

After some tired meals at the downtown Jaleo (a recent trip to the Bethesda Jaleo was good) and a mediocre meal several months ago at Oyamel, I would have to easily rate Zaytinya the best of the Jose Andres Empire right now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lunch at the bar Monday was my first visit since Mike Isabella departed. The menu was edited and prices seem to have crept to the point that I questioned the "value" of small plates. Service at the bar, as always, is efficient and friendly. Only shared three dishes: roasted cauliflower (delicious, but not a large portion for $8), the chicken shishtwook (fine, also small) and the grilled octopus. The bartender recommended the octopus as the signature dish. The meat was grilled crisp, and rendered a bit dry. It was still very tasty. But, for $12, it was maybe 8 small pieces - and the puree underneath is not enough to boost this to "filling" status. Of course, I enjoyed the hot bread with the oil in large quantities.

My last bar lunch at Jaleo had me thinking "this is a pretty good value for the money," and I had the opposite feeling at Zaytinya. I still love the bar, and the bright dining room, and the wonderful patio, but I don't think this place will lure me back soon as there are just too many other choices in the area and/or at the price point.

This generally represents our feelings from a recent visit. Wine prices are also higher and the choices not quite as interesting. Still a fun place to dine-we always sit at the bar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A bit of a follow-up on my recent series of posts on luncheon spots in DC. I have had lunch twice recently at Zaytinya, in addition to a dinner. I think the lunch deal is superb, a Greek/Mediterranean mezze-style luncheon of four courses for $22. For this price, if you forego vino, I think you will find the best spot in DC to have lunch without wine.

But for me, I ALWAYS have a cuppa with my food. Sometimes two glasses. Or even occasionally three. Or if there is no work to be done in the afternoon, four!

There are a number of excellent experiemental choices for mezze, mix and match and have fun.

My favorite thing on the menu, however, was the variety of not-too-common Greek wines by the glass, at reasonable prices.

This is one of my favorite luncheon spots in DC - for dinner, I thought it a bit too pricey for the grazing style of dining, but perfectly acceptable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SEASONAL MUSHROOMS sautéed mushrooms, dates, toasted almonds. Didn't sound too exciting but perhaps one of the best dishes of the night.

This is the one thing I order absolutely every time. Rich, savory, unexpected flavors. Mushrooms are one of my favorite things, but even people who like them equivalent to other vegetables have sighed and asked if we should get another round of them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Like NovaLawyer above, we took advantage of the $22 lunch deal yesterday. Miracle of miracles, Hubby pronounced his small plate meal as quite good and an excellent value!

Highlights were the crispy eggplant, the fattoush salad and the beef and lamb meatballs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Went recently. Have not been in quite a while.

Tried to avoid some things I have ordered before, and they always seem to have new stuff anyway, and specials, so this was not too hard to accomplish.

Good/Satisfying items were the Bantjan bil lana (crispy eggplant), the midyes (fried mussels) and a few other items.

Misses - the spiced veal sweetbreads. The spice on the dish we got so completely overwhelmed the sweetbreads, these could have easily been anything covered in this spice and tasted the same. Like chicken nuggets. This was a clunker.

Interesting dish for me was the kibbeh nayeh. I love tartare and I have not had this before. It was good and interesting, but nowhere near the peak of all things tartare. I would not be disappointed if I ordered it again even.

The WINS. The octopus santorini is sublime. Perfectly cooked, great combination of flavors and ingredients. A real stand out. But, by far (this is saying something because I love octopus), was the crispy brussels afelia. I could eat this every day and never get tired of it. So, so, so good. This is the perfect example of a dish you have someone try who says 'I hate <insert food item they hate>!', in this case brussel sprouts. A seriously great dish.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had also not been in a couple of years before we stopped in for lunch on Monday after encountering (not unexpected) 90 minute plus waits at Hill Country and Jaleo. It was a great choice for our group of folks. I completely echo the praise for the crispy brussels sprouts from Pool Boy. I loved them, and two self-proclaimed Brussels sprouts haters both tried them because they looked so good, and loved them. The crispy eggplant was also great. The only thing close to a miss (and it was still solid, just not great) was the cauliflower.

Solid service as well. We need to make it back sooner next time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kind of amazed that Zaytinya has had only 4 posts in the last year! I've been at least 5 times over the years and it's amazing how the quality of food consistently is high with some dishes being more than special. Went last night---had 10-15 dishes for our family of 5. All good-to-great. The two that were extraordinary were the octopus santorini (expertly charred and mixed with grilled onions and capers over a bed of pea puree) and hunkar begendi (braised lamb shank over a bed of a delicious eggplant-cheese puree). I will no doubt order these two every time I eat here going forward.

The space is large and airy, service relaxed yet crisp. It's a rare place that has excellent food like this where we can take our kids (ages 7-13) and everyone can have a good time.

It seems that the Jose Andres restaurants don't change much and do things so well that there's not a lot new to say about them. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kind of amazed that Zaytinya has had only 4 posts in the last year! . . . It seems that the Jose Andres restaurants don't change much and do things so well that there's not a lot new to say about them. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Zaytinya is better now under Michael Costa than it's ever been. It's gotten its fair share of praise from Sietsema and Kliman lately, which is reflected in Zaytinya's ranking in DCDiningGuide (the ratings in the guide are an aggregate of based on Tom's, Todd's, and Don's assessments, adjusted for time and other factors). I think it generates comparatively little interest here because it's been around for a while so there's not much buzz. Also, the fact that the face of the brand (Think Food Group) is, for lack of a better description, a "celebrity chef," probably doesn't help endear it to "foodies."

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Zaytinya is better now under Michael Costa than it's ever been. It's gotten its fair share of praise from Sietsema and Kliman lately, which is reflected in Zaytinya's ranking in DCDiningGuide (the ratings in the guide are an aggregate of based on Tom's, Todd's, and Don's assessments, adjusted for time and other factors). I think it generates comparatively little interest here because it's been around for a while so there's not much buzz. Also, the fact that the face of the brand (Think Food Group) is, for lack of a better description, a "celebrity chef," probably doesn't help endear it to "foodies."

My last full meal at Zaytinya was in September, 2011, so it has been nearly two years. That dinner was memorable for one thing only: some of the worst service I'd ever gotten in a restaurant (not *the* worst, but certainly "top 20 worst"). This was as damning an evening as there could possibly be, with two open-minded customers walking out asking why we would *ever* want to come back here? Poor service is remembered long, long after poor food.

Late last Sunday, two of us stopped into the bar where we ran into our friend Adam, who works in the industry. He was leaving work and going for some dinner (so obviously he's a fan), whereas we were just having a nightcap. So I've been as recently as a week ago, and spent a large amount of money (big spender bought everything, and left the wonderful bartender, clearly a friend of Adam's, a monster tip), but I didn't try any food at all.

So I guess it's time for my semi-annual 'Sighhhhh,' when I hear 2-3 people raving about Zaytinya, or Jaleo, or, Oyamel, or Hank's, or DC Coast, or PassionFish, or any of twenty other locally owned corporate restaurants that always range from "meh" to "very good," and accept the fact that I'm going to be $50-75 poorer and unthrilled, but at least I'll be current. One thing that has *always* remained consistent at Zaytinya is the "assembled" nature of the dishes, the individual ingredients seemingly placed onto the plate just before going out, generally resulting in pleasant flavor combinations (the flavorist for ThinkFoodGroup knows what he or she is doing) without much depth or persistence. One thing I do acknowledge (which is why Zaytinya is in Italic) is that I seem to be in the minority in never having loved the restaurant - are there flaws here that only a grizzled cynic who eats out every night can see? If so, then what good is that person's opinion anyway?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I visited Zaytinya twice in the last month, service is subpar, but food is well made. As a Turk, it's a great escape to sip on Efe Raki and eat pastirma and hunkar begendi. Until I discover another Turkish restaurant with above average food, Zaytinya will be my default choice for Turkish food.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At Zaytinya tonight, during DC's unseasonably warm spell at the end of December 2015 we had nice service from Farouk. One runner dropped the first Baba Ganoush unceremoniously and said something unintelligible but, other than that, the runners, bussers, and Farouk did a nice job.

Oh, and the food (lentil soup, eggplant, roasted cauliflower, medley of 'shrooms with dates and such; dolmades; Bronzino), why yeah... It was pretty dang good. (Exception: I didn't really like spicing on the batatas.)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Zaytinya continues to be our go to lunch spot when my parents are in town.  Spending an hour or so under the umbrellas on the patio during a day of museum-ing is the way to go.  The quality is still consistent after all these years, although the pita bread seemed a little drier.  Favorites include the french fries with yogurt sauce, roasted eggplant with onions and tomatoes, adana kebab, seared halloumi, oyster saganaki, and crispy brussels afelia.  Best to get there before 12:30pm on a Saturday, by 1pm the patio and restaurant was pretty much full.   

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/19/2018 at 2:16 PM, dcs said:

Lawsuit accuses celebrity chef Mike Isabella of ‘extraordinary’ sexual harassment, by Danielle Paquette,  March 19, 2018, on washingtonpost.com. at 1:06 PM Email the author

What I don't understand is why people - on either side (this is not a partisan post) - haven't produced ex-Zaytinya employees: José Andrés was most likely never there, and if there are any problems, they probably would have also existed at Zaytinya; if there aren't, then Zaytinya would probably have witnesses for the defense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/30/2018 at 9:52 AM, DonRocks said:

What I don't understand is why people - on either side (this is not a partisan post) - haven't produced ex-Zaytinya employees: José Andrés was most likely never there, and if there are any problems, they probably would have also existed at Zaytinya; if there aren't, then Zaytinya would probably have witnesses for the defense.

Perhaps because much of these allegations seem to be that Isabella ran an organization that had a culture of sexual harrassment.  If Isabella wasn't a partner/owner at Zaytinya, it's a bit less relevant. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...