Chef Costa and Zaytinya (DC)
For those in the Washington, DC area, or those who are planning a visit, definitely make it a point to dine at Zaytinya. This Greek restaurant is one of Jose Andres' places, but our own ChefCosta is at the helm and is overseeing a kitchen that is putting out a lot of really delicious food. I know Bill13 and MuchoBucho have already raved about the restaurant, but after our experience there yesterday it would be criminal for me not to post as well.
We visited at lunch time to see the Agora Greek 'market' yesterday that marked the end of their 2 week-long Easter festival. After sampling some wine, cheese and lamb sausage we decided to get a table inside and have a little bite to eat. I got to meet Mike and chat for a few minutes before we sat down, and once we were situated he asked if we wanted to order off the menu of leave it up to the kitchen. Of course we chose the latter option, and we were not disappointed. Plate after plate came out, all were what I would consider simple food elevated to a level not normally experienced. There was no molecular gastronomy or other things that Andres is known for. Instead, it was very high quality ingredients that were allowed to shine. It started with hummus and some wonderful bread, followed quickly with a couple other bread 'toppings' including a wonderful mix of roasted red peppers, feta, red onion and oregano. The 'entree' dishes (it's a small plates format) included snails, octopus, salmon, beef and lamb. My wife and dad both thought the salmon was among the best they have ever had, and the snails were a nice departure from the normal drowned-in-butter-and-garlic preparation. I can personally vouch for the perfectly cooked beek and the ground lamb wrapped in house-made phyllo.
Throughout the meal Chef Costa came and talked with us, explaining the dishes, where the ingredients were sourced from, etc. He is a super nice guy and he really cares about, and believes in, what they are doing. And as an added bonus the wait staff was extremely good; this is definitely a well-run restaurant!
We wound up getting spoiled for a good 2 hours. Even our 14 month old thoroughly enjoyed the food. And the meal ended with some very nice desserts, and the highlight was a bowl of some of the best strawberries we have ever tasted. That dessert summed up the meal for us -- the restaurant seeks out the highest-quality ingredients they can source, and then the kitchen stays out of the way and lets those ingredients really shine. I know that is cliche these days, but Zaytinya really lives up to that mantra. Those strawberries were purchased in Santa Monica, CA, and Fed-Ex'ed to the restaurant. I think that illustrates the lengths that they go to in order to provide a top-notch dining experience.
This is the fourth restaurant in the DC/ VA/ MD area I've been to where a KKF member or two are key figures in the kitchen. All have been memorable experiences, and I've been back to two of them on multiple occassions. There is no doubt Zaytinya is going to be another restaurant we go back to again and again, and we will be telling others and encouraging them to visit.
So if you live in the DC area or are going to visit, make it a point to reach out to ChefCosta and get to Zaytinya for a fantastic meal.
My wife, who is half-Greek, and I have always thought the food at Zaytinya excellent and rarely been disappointed with any of the dishes there. I think it consistently offers the most innovative and interesting food in the area's Jose Andres restaurants. Better even than his Spanish ones, Jaleo.
We haven't been in a few months so i think we'll have to visit soon!
Nice recap of your visit! It confirms what I've always experienced at Zaytinya--I've never been disappointed by anything I've ordered.
Now I need to get back there . . .