100 Best Restaurants 2008: Zaytinya

No. 28: Zaytinya

Cuisine: The earthy flavors of Greece, Lebanon, and Turkey reconceived as dazzling nibbles by chef José Andrés at this stylish Penn Quarter mezzeteria.

Mood: White walls, high ceilings, and flickering votives are the stage set for the lively bar and high-decibel dining room.

Best for: Budget-minded foodies, convivial groups, and anyone in search of a bright bite before or after a game or play.

Best dishes: Imam bayildi, tender eggplant with onions and tomatoes; fried mussels with walnut sauce; cured gray-mullet roe; Turkish pastirma, a garlicky variation on cured, air-dried beef; pork-and-orange-rind sausages; whole grilled fish with capers; beets and green beans with skordalia and toasted almonds; milk-chocolate cream with visne (sour cherry) sorbet; Turkish delight, a kitchen sink of a dessert with walnut ice cream, yogurt mousse, honey gelée, and orange-caramel sauce.

Insider tips: The loft dining area is a wonderful perch away from the crowd, offering a bird’s-eye sweep of the restaurant. Servers tend to overestimate how many small plates will satisfy, so hold back when ordering.

Service: ••

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.