January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

Jose Andres's stunning Mediterranean mezze restaurant is always buzzing.

No. 39: Zaytinya

Its windows may overlook the porticos of the Old Patent Office building, one of the nation’s most famous examples of Greek Revival architecture, but José Andrés’s airy mezzeteria feels more Santorini than Parthenon. The modernist dining room, with its twinkling candles, walls of glass, and cobalt accents, is as sexy as a summer night.

But it’s not the setting that keeps the no-reservations place packed from noon to nearly midnight. It’s Andrés’s knack for translating ethnic flavors—here the focus is on Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese mezze—into affordable and artful small plates; even the hummus and pita are lookers.

The servings may be small, but you’ll find big flavors up and down the menu, from the hünkãr begendi, a wonderfully tender lamb shank on a purée of eggplant, to grape leaves stuffed with Pipe Dreams chèvre to quickly seared scallops sided with Greek yogurt. There’s also flaky spanakopita, a lush fava-bean purée, and a zesty lip-smacker of feta and tomato marmalade. And Steve Klc’s desserts—from an earthy chocolate cake to muscat-macerated apricots with yogurt—are among the best in the city. Now, if only the swarms of loyalists didn’t prevent the kind of lazy lingering the food inspires.

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