Winter Restaurant Week 2015: Zaytinya

Still wondering where to eat during Restaurant Week? IMG_1210Hoping for an extended opportunity to try a place or try more? You’ll never go wrong with one of Jose Andres’ restaurants and you’ll never go wrong with Zaytinya. The menu is well balanced with tried and true favorites and exciting surprises of Mediterranean flavor and this year they are offering hand-selected bottles of wine at a special Restaurant Week price will also be available.  I will suggest going with a group that doesn’t mind sharing plates so you can maximize trying everything.  It is a true small plates restaurant in that the portions are enough for sharing and still feeling fulfilled.

IMG_1213Their Restaurant Week menu is a generous four course mezze style menu of traditional Greek, Lebanese and Turkish cuisines.  Since I don’t have extensive experience cooking Eastern Mediterranean food, I get very excited about ordering some of the atypical foods.  My lunch dates helped me balance out by ordering olives and hummus, which is always a good thing since my hummus is never as good as Zaytinya’s.  A woman can dream.  The hummus is creamy and garlicky with a delightful smokiness from the sprinkle of paprika and nice peppery finish from the olive oil.  Even during Restaurant Week, the staff keeps the pita coming to the table so there’s no need to worry about how to eat it.

IMG_1207For those who’ve read my blog for a little bit now, I am a sucker for Brussels sprouts.  These are some of the best I’ve ever eaten. I will freely admit I ate more than my share of this plate. Zaytinya serves theirs roasted with coriander and barberries, wonderful little tart berries, and then an amazing garlic yogurt sauce (I also really like garlic, just in case you missed that) is drizzled over the top.  The sauce melts a bit over the freshly roasted spouts making this creamy, tart glaze that gives the dish an extra bit of attitude on the crunchy roasted leaves. For those who think roasted veggies belong in the fall, I guarantee you’ll find them bright and tart enough for spring and summer.

IMG_1208IMG_1209We also sampled the seared salmon, with tahini, pomegranate and mint; the falafel; marinated Greek olives; Kibbeh Nayeh, a Lebanese style beef tartare with bulgar wheat and radish; Kapama, a beef and lamb meatballs served with feta cheese and a lovely tomato sauce spiced with cinnamon and allspice; the Shish Taouk and Kotopoulo Youvesti.  Chicken can be so exciting when prepared correctly and these two plates do just that. The Shish Taouk, a grilled chicken thigh, with sumac, onion and garlic toum (a Lebanese garlic paste) is an excellent example of unexpected acidity from all the lemony flavors.  Served like a kebab, the grilling also adds a lovely charred smoke that tempers some of the tartness. For a savory note, the Kotopoulo Youvesti a baked chicken and orzo dish with tomato and topped with Kefalograviera cheese (a salty Greek sheep’s cheese) is a comforting welcome conclusion to an excellent meal.

IMG_1215But because it’s Restaurant Week, you can’t conclude a meal without dessert.  And if you’re going to Zaytinya the only thing to get is the Turkish Delight.  Because its Turkish Delight. Zaytinya’s is presented with a walnut ice cream, yogurt mousse, honey gelee, orange caramel sauce and caramelized pine nuts.  One might worry about the number of ingredients and garnishes here but everything sings together.  The cold and creamy ice cream works magic with the sauce and gets a kick of tartness from the yogurt.  The pine nuts add a pleasant crunch.  It’s a perfectly refreshing finish to a bright meal.  Zaytinya will take your winter blues away!

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