Yumyumyumyumyum. I'm a tapas/mezze lover. Small plates allow me to try a lot of different things without (a) wasting food, (b) emptying my wallet, (c) eating entirely too much. I loved Zaytinya.
No matter what you get, it's likely to be good. For dinner, I loved the arayes (pita filled with lamb), kibbeh (crisp and golden-brown bulb-shaped fritters filled with meat and spices), the falafel (old favorite, but seriously, it's a must) and the grape leaves. I would eat everything that I had again, but it's necessary to mix it up so eventually you hit everything on the menu. I already forgot how good the spanikopita (feta and spinach in phyllo dough) was--it comes out last and it is worth the wait.
The creamy hint-of-a-tangy-note labneh transported me back to the breakfast table in Israel, a place where the produce has a sharper, brighter taste and the cheeses cause the word "portion" to disappear from my vocabulary. The staff thankfully keeps refilling the basket of their pita, a 3-D diamond-shaped pocket-like bread, which entertains me on the table as the steam pours out of a small hole at the top. Dip it in every sauce, cheese, and yogurt. You know, just to make sure it's still good.
A note about the wine: Though $9 for the cheapest glass made me do a double-take, this "glass" was more like 1.5--the large pour was pleasing.
Brunch is equally delightful at Zaytinya. The patata harra, a stated favorite of our server, was a tasty treat--a fried egg placed prettily on top of a hashy potato mixture. The omelet with vegetables was very vegetable-y tasting--not my favorite, but still good. My FAVORITE were the poached eggs (cilbir) with Greek yogurt, paprika butter, and sumac. After the initial puncture, the running egg yolks and deliciously creamy sauce were subjected to my incessant dipping with my pita. I also think this dish offers the most bang for your buck, because it's a lot of food (especially with the abundant opportunity to dip) for $6.95. The traditional Lebanese French toast (with honey-marinated bananas) was so moist that my father refused to believe it was actually made of bread--he likened it to flan, the Spanish custard dessert. It tasted like a grand finale for me, too!
Servers recommend 2-3 dishes per person, and for brunch we ordered 2 per person plus 3 more for the table of 6 total guests. We had plenty and all left full.
Service is friendly--our hummus was forgotten but we received two orders of fried eggplant, which we promptly ate. We were only charged for what we ate.
I'm totally obsessed...I think Zaytinya is my new favorite restaurant in DC.
1. Not super-expensive
2. Ridiculously delicious
3. Many options
4. Lots of sharing
5. Lots of cheese
Updated note: Forgot to tell ya'll how it's superdeeduper loud at dinnertime because da bar iz hoppin. If you are bringing old folks, try brunch! It's quiet and reservations don't need to be made 3 weeks in advance, harumph.
701 9th St NW
Metro: Green, Red, or Yellow line to Gallery Place, or Blue, Orange, or Red Line to Metro Center. It's situated pretty much in between, and they are close together.