Zaytinya – A beautiful Mediterranean restaurant in the heart of Washington DC

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Mediterranean food always has a very special place in my heart. I love the freshness and the warmth in every dish and the variety of flavors which pleases your palette. Last month I tried cooking some Mediterranean food and while in the process of finding the perfect recipe and spice blends, I read a lot about the Mediterranean cuisine. So obviously I was craving to try out some delicious authentic Mediterranean spread.

When we were visiting Washington DC earlier this month I asked around for suggestions of good restaurants and one name which stayed constant in all the suggestions was Zaytinya. Started by chef Jose Andres in 2002, Zaytinya is one of the most recommended dining spots in Washington DC. It specializes in mezze menu inspired by Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisines.

Mezze Platters or Mezze meals are inspired with the idea of a whole family or a group of friends eating together and sharing the meal. Hence here the meal is served in smaller plates and there are a lot of variations in the dishes.  In some Mediterranean cultures, Mezze meals are considered to be a part of the appetizers while in other, Mezze meals are considered to be an entire meal in itself.

Zaytinya has created a wide range of Mezze meals to satisfy almost all kinds of tastes. Their menu is truly vast and if you want to be avoid making any blunders while choosing what to eat they lined up these specials for you –  Lunch Mezze Meal,  Zaytinya Experience and Chefs Experience.

We opted for the Lunch Mezze Meal where we had to choose from this Menu –

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Also I must tell you’ll their every meal is accompanied by an endless supply of freshly baked perfectly fluffed delicious Pita breads!

The delicious and endless supply of Pita Bread

In the first section, we ordered their Hommous and Baba Ghanoush. Both the Hummus and the Baba Ghanoush were fresh, delicately flavored and were devoured by us within minutes.

Hommous and Baba Ghanoush

Next up were Skuna Bay Salmon – Salmon served with herbed tahini, roasted pine nuts, Persian cucumber, pickled radish, preserved lemon and Kotopoulo Youvetsi – chicken, orzo, tomato, kefalograviera cheese. The Salmon was cooked to perfection, plated on herbed tahini, radish and cucumber. It was by far the most beautiful plating I had seen :D. It was not heavy on the palette and the portion size was perfect for one person.

Skuna Bay Salmon

The Kotopoulo Youvetsi was my favorite from this menu and I seriously considered calling for seconds on this. The Orzo was cooked to perfection in cheesy tomato sauce and tiny chicken chunks and this was broiled till a crisp layer formed on the top. It was truly a soul-food for me.

Kotopoulo Youvetsi

For the third course we ordered Adana Kebab – skewered ground lamb, house-made harissa, grilled tomatoes, sumac, onions and Keftedes Kapama – beef and lamb meatballs, feta cheese, rustic tomato sauce, cinnamon, allspice.

The Adana Kebabs were juicy and not very spicy. They were served on a fresh flat bread with some pickled onions which reminded me of how kebabs are served back home in India 😛 another similarity in Indian and Mediterranean cuisine ;).

Adana Kebabs

The Keftedes Kapama is a wonderful dish made with juicy keftes/koftas served in luscious tomato sauce with was mildly spiced and the feta cheese crumbled on top of it added just the right amount of creamy tang to the whole dish. Definitely a must try if you are fan of tomato based dishes like me :D.

Keftedes Kapama

We ended our wonderful lunch with the dessert being Greek Yogurt with Apricots  – which was soaked apricots served with fresh vanilla yogurt cream, apricot sorbet and pistachio powder. The dessert was very visually appealing, the apricot sorbet layered with Greek yogurt was a fresh combination and the pistachio powder added a good nutty flavor to the whole dessert.

Greek Yogurt with Apricots


Overall, I would really suggest visiting Zaytinya on your visit to Washington DC. Here are some tips for your next visit to Zaytinya

  • Reserve a table – we decided to walk in but were told that the waiting time for a table was 30 mins. They were however swift enough to give us a table in less than 20 minutes that too on a crowded weekday lunch time.
  • Enjoy patio dining when the weather is pleasant, the food just calls for patio dining 😀
  • Go with a group so you can truly enjoy the Mezze dining experience


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