100 Very Best Restaurants 2014: Zaytinya

No. 24 on this year's list.
The dining room at Zaytinya restaurant in Washington, DC. Photograph by Chris Campbell.

The mezze at José Andrés’s white-and-blue Penn Quarter restaurant remain as crave-worthy as ever. It’s hard to imagine a meal here that doesn’t begin with swiping puffy pita bread through velvety baba ghanoush topped with pomegranate seeds, or tzatziki that’s fragrant with dill. But the beauty of this expansive menu—inspired by Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon—is that experimentation is nearly always rewarded.

From a hunk of seared haloumi cheese with oranges and dates to pearls of couscous blanketed in earthy mushrooms, this is a small-plates menu that justifies the genre. Good as the food is, don’t forget to pay attention to what’s in your glass. Cocktails such as the Harissa Fizz—with tequila, harissa, and lemon soda—lend a festive feel to dinner.

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

Don’t miss: Grilled octopus with yellow-split-pea purée; avgolemono soup; Brussels sprouts with garlic yogurt; potato-crusted snail kibbeh; meatballs; Turkish Delight sundae; semolina custard with apple sorbet. 

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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.