January 2006 100 Very Best Restaurants: Zaytinya

The hip downtown vibe of this white dining room with soaring ceilings is catnip to trend-seekers.

THE SCENE. The hip downtown vibe of this white dining room with soaring ceilings is catnip to trend-seekers. On weekends the youngish bar scene can get so frenetic that the buzz resembles the return of the cicadas.

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. The kitchen, for all its moxie, never pumps the flavors of the Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese-inspired mezze so far beyond the originals that they become unrecognizable, and duds are few. The communal approach–the idea is to order several plates to share–is a great icebreaker and makes the place popular with large groups. And the bathrooms, with their unisex, avant-garde "fountain" sinks, may be the niftiest in town.

WHAT YOU WON'T. The dining room can get loud and service chaotic. Sometimes pacing is off, causing lags between dishes.

BEST DISHES. Garlicky pork sausages with tart orange rind and bean stew; lollipop lamb chops with rosemary syrup; spanakopita like no other, courtesy of house-made phyllo dough; Manti Nejla, tiny beef-stuffed pasta "boats" slathered with paprika, butter, and roasted garlic yogurt; crisp-fried mussels, a Turkish seaside snack; braised lamb on a bed of puréed smoked eggplant, béchamel, and keflograviera cheese; yogurt cream with apricot and Muscat gelée; and olive-oil ice cream with a mixed citrus salad.

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