Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

June 29, 2013 8:56 AM

Restaurant: Zaytinya


701 9th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
I went to Zaytinya with Debbie, Rachel, Steve, Max, and Cobby. This was my third visit to Zaytinya and my first on a Saturday night.

It is a large restaurant, with floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls, and therefore, is well-lighted, day and night. The main dining area is on the entrance level and there is a balcony at one end. On the night we were there, there was a very long table running down the center of the main floor, which looked to seat between 35 and 40 people. It was not clear whether this was a communal table or one large party.

There is a very long bar along one wall, on a slightly raised floor, which seats 25-30 people on high stools, and another 20 on high tables with stools, seating four each. When the weather permits or encourages, there is an outside area with multiple four tops.

The restaurant seats about 220 without including the outside plaza, which appears to seat another 100. On this night about 900 people were served.

We had a 6:30 reservation and were quickly seated. I had a view of the front door and reception desk, and from about 7 p.m. and into the night there was a steady stream of new folks milling around the desk. The folks taking care of them and seating them were extraordinarily gracious, even when new guests were piled around them.

The crowd ranges from quite young to those of us on the older side. Dress is absolutely casual. The restaurant is rather noisy, but not cacophonous.

All of the dishes on the extensive menu are small, except for a few “family style” offerings on a special menu. Our waiter suggested that we order three dishes for each of the four adults, and two for each of the younger people in our party.

When dining at small-dish restaurants with a large party there is always a certain amount of confusion, as people sing out their order and then the serving person tries to get everything right. Having experienced this at other restaurants on previous occasions, I brought with me a copy of the restaurant’s menu from its website. (Menus tend to be more current on the restaurant website than the menus on Open Table.)

We went around the table and as each person announced what they would like to have I checked off the item on the menu. When the serving person came to take our order I gave him a copy of my list with a request that it be returned. It was clear that he enjoyed taking the order this way.

We ordered 15 dishes from various sections of the menu and then an additional serving of Baba Ghannouge.

Spreads – Baba Ghannouge (egg plant), Tzatziki (Greek yogurt), Taramosalata (cured carp roe).

Soups & Salads – Fattoush (chopped vegetables) and Beet Salata.

Vegetable Mezze – Crispy Brussels Afelia, Bantijjan Bil Laban (eggplant), Roasted Cauliflower, Mercimek Koftese (red lentil patties), Elies Tis Elladas (assorted olives), Mushroom Couscous, Falafel (chickpea fritters), Piyaz (warm giant beans), Patates Tiganites Me Yiaqorti (potatoes).

Meat & Poultry Mezze – Shish Taouk (chicken), Knisa Lamb Chops.

Freshly made pita breads were brought to the table throughout the dinner.

We had no room for dessert.

The dishes came out 1, 2 or 3 at a time, in the approximate order they were listed on the menu. The service was quick and the serving person who took care of us was excellent.

As you enter the men’s room, to the far right, tucked into a corner, are two different height, white, ceramic, wall-attached urinals. They are separated from three completely enclosed, wooden door, commode rooms by a floor-to-ceiling wall. The third of the commode rooms also includes a washbasin and is fully equipped for handicapped use.

Across the room, and to the left of the door as you come in, is a long, white, square ceramic washbasin with three separate hand washing stations.

The floor is covered with large tan colored tiles. Some of the walls are covered with large gray tiles and other walls are painted a dark brown.

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