There’s something refreshingly calming and peaceful about Zaytinya. The big lofty ceilings, sky-high windows, the white, silver and blue tones; it all just makes the restaurant a pleasant, airy place to be.
On this particular morning, groggy after a very busy week at work and sick with the flu, I needed something serene. I sat down with my friend Nic, one of the sweetest girls around, and immediately felt relieved by good food, plenty of coffee, and great conversation.
Throughout our two-hour catch-up brunch, our coffee mugs were refilled several times by our attentive and polite waitress, who also happened to be distractingly tall and lovely. Fortunately, she was a great waitress and the fact that she should have been on a fashion runway, not at our table, was the only thing that was distracting.
We started off with hummus and Zaytinya’s notoriously delicious fresh, warm and fluffy pita bread. The pita bread is served with regular ole’ olive oil and Balsamic vinegar, but it’s a sweeter, more delicious Balsamic that I find myself quite addicted to every time I dine there.
As one must always sip a minimum of one mimosa at brunch, I had just one. It was large, bubbly, and fresh. Like the rest of brunch at Zaytinya, it was fine, just fine.
The entire lunch menu is served during brunch, and there are five brunch-specific dishes available until 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. We picked three of the five.
First up, Tiganites, Greek style pancakes served with Greek yogurt and honey en lieu of syrup. As the menu is tapas style, there were three pancakes. They were fine pancakes—crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. They were more enjoyable than perhaps the standard variation, but nothing terribly memorable.
It was about midway through the pancakes when the devil incarnate, a monster child, began screaming, and proceeded to scream for the next hour. So, I should clarify my introductory statement: Zaytinya is spacious, airy, calming and serene. Unfortunately, it is also large and popular enough to be filled with tourists and suburbanites and, on this occasion, screaming children.
As I struggled to ignore the child’s wails while the parents succeeded in doing so, I felt like Samantha in Sex and the City when the brat-child dumps spaghetti on her white suite in the nice restaurant. Brunch is not a child-friendly activity, as it is made to accommodate hangover-curing day-drinking and gossiping—none of which should involve someone under the age of say, 21.
Next up, more carbs, the Ashta, traditional Lebanese French toast, served with bananas, cherries and orange blossom honey. This was a very sweet, fluffy, rich block of French toast, which was crusty on the outside. The sliced fresh bananas made the dish.
It was nice to get some fruit—I wish there were more fruit and veggie options on the brunch menu specifically. But, since the whole menu is available, there’s not much cause for complaint.
Lastly, the Cilbir, poached eggs atop thin white toast and covered in a creamy sauce made from Green yogurt, paprika butter and sumac. The very rich sauce covered the dish entirely, and, I was initially put off.
However, on first bite, the sauce was less overbearing than it looked, the eggs were poached correctly, and the dish was pretty good. However, I wouldn’t order it again.
I wish there had been more variety, and more fruit and veggies, on the brunch menu. Jose Andres does his standard here: succeeds at a foreign cuisine type, but keeps it just bland enough to appeal to the masses. The food is good, but I’d rather go for dinner or a mid-week lunch than brunch.
The Bitches say: B+. Zaytina has a great ambiance, good service, and yummy Mediterranean cuisine. The brunch could be stepped up a notch.
701 9th Street N.W.