100 Very Best Restaurants 2014: Ayse

Salty and sweet: Ayse dresses up pastirma—thin slices of dried beef—with crushed pistachios, apricots, and feta. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Many a Greek restaurant bids to summon the spirit of a taverna overlooking the Aegean. This one does it with understated simplicity: cool marble tiles on the floor, embroidered pillows in the booths, a high-ceilinged room awash in soothing blue and white. The young servers appear to have been airlifted from across the pond, attending to tables with a warm, relaxed manner and guiding diners through the exhaustive selection of mezze. These small, boldly flavored dishes amount to a colorful culinary tour of Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon—from lively dips to robustly seasoned kebabs. A separate printed menu reflects chef/owner Ric Ade’s daily market runs, and that slip of paper is the first place you should turn before ordering. Pace yourself for a fine, fitting finish: a glass of cold raki—an anise-flavored liquor that turns milky when poured over ice—with a slice of walnut cake or the buttery house-made fig newtons. 

Open: Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for brunch and dinner. 

Don’t Miss: Cured black olives; Istanbul spread sampler; grilled whole fish (a special); sugar snap peas with almonds; pastirma (air-dried beef); chicken tawook.

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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 Logan Circle.

Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.