701 Ninth St., NW
Washington, DC 20001
Neighborhood: Penn Quarter/Chinatown, Downtown
Cuisines: Turkish, Spanish/Portuguese, Tapas/Small Plates, Lebanese, Greek/Mediterranean
Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch, lunch, and dinner.
Nearby Metro Stops: Metro Center, Gallery Place-Chinatown
Price Range: Moderate
Noise Level: Chatty
Htipiti; fried eggplant; taramasalata; zucchini-and-cheese fritters; poached salmon with eggplant; veal cheeks with chanterelle-mushroom purée; prawns with charred-tomato sauce; salmon shawarma sandwich (lunch only)
Only the top 40 restaurants were ranked in 2011's Best Restaurants list.
Chef/restaurateur José Andrés may hail from Spain, but this downtown DC hot spot specializes convincingly in Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese mezze, or small plates. Andrés tapped Michael Costa to head the kitchen some months ago, and Costa has maintained the consistency and creativity demanded by his perfectionist boss.
Regulars avoid a wait by dining during off hours—maybe taking a leisurely late lunch after visiting the National Portrait Gallery down the street. Vegetarians can eat well by grazing on outstanding dips such as the thick, silky yogurt called labneh and bright roasted-pepper htipiti; a cheese plate with accompaniments such as tomato jam and honeycomb; and more than a dozen satisfying veggie mezze. Considering that four people can eat here for around $100—including desserts, available in whole or half sizes—Zaytinya is a very good value.
Also good: Crisp Brussels sprouts with tangy barberries from Iran; giant beans with kale; olive-oil-poached salmon; duck breast with honey and olives; lemony Swiss chard with beets; mushrooms sweetened with dates and almonds; batter-fried slices of eggplant with garlic yogurt; a creamsicle-like apricot-yogurt parfait; an ice-cream-based twist on Turkish delight.
Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner. Moderate.