Around the world, olive oil is the center of life, used not just for cooking, but in medicinal, cleansing, and religious practices. Olive trees are in the center of Turkish culture, carrying village histories and providing one of the most essential ingredients in traditional cuisine. So, it’s no surprise that Chef José Andrés named his innovative Mediterranean concept Zaytinya, a play on the Turkish world for olive oil.
The flagship location in Washington, DC opened its doors to the Penn Quarter neighborhood in 2002, and instantly became a sensation. Ten years later, José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup has found a home for the mezze menu inspired by Turkish, Greek, and Lebanese cuisines in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton, NoMad.
The array of shareable small plates of authentic fare, craft cocktails, and unique Mediterranean wines are served amidst the exceptional 140-seat dining room designed by David Rockwell and his award-winning architecture and design firm Rockwell Group. The vibrant waters and natural beauty of the Mediterranean were at the forefront of the creative vision. A light and clean color palette perfectly compliments the use of natural materials, such as the white oak wood tables, chairs, and dining banquettes and the light fixtures wrapped in canvas covered in seemingly hand-drawn motifs. The corner bar is breathtaking, with a glossy bright blue countertop and an abstract curved backlit screen made of hand-blown glass discs inspired by the “evil eye.” A custom Gio Ponti-inspired tiled floor surrounds the bar, creating a natural separation from the rest of the space.
The culinary program is overseen by Head Chef José Andrés and his Chef Partner Michael Costa. As the backbone of Mediterranean hospitality, shareable spreads are the main focus of the menu, appearing in the form of flatbreads, cures and cheeses, soups and salads, and mezze.
ThinkFoodGroup’s Cocktail Innovator Miguel Lancha boasts diverse options, from the light and refreshing Za’atar Margarita (Milagro tequila, lime, orange liqueur, za’atar air) to the adventurous Caleidoscope (Batavia Arrack, lemon, roasted sweet pepper, smokey urfa pepper and wild Greek chamomile). Wine Director Jodi Paronella curated an extensive selection of Mediterranean wines that reflect the regionality and flavors of the menu.
Ask any of the waitstaff for their recommendations, and they all say the Crispy Brussel Sprouts Afelia with coriander seeds, barberries, and garlic yogurt are a must-order. The Artisanal Turkish Cheese Tasting pairs three different cheeses––Izmir Tulum, Obruk Tulum, and Aged Kars Kasar––with various fruits, nuts, and tapenades. Highlights from the Seafood mezze include the Octopus Santorini with marinated onions, capers, and yellow split pea purée, Avgotaraho with traditional Greek press caviar of cured grey mullet roe. From the Meat & Poultry portion of the menu, be sure to try the Hunkar Begendi––traditional Turkish braised lamb shank, eggplant, and kefalograviera cheese purée––as well as the Bone Marrow Kibbeh––beef and bulgur wheat fritters filled with bone marrow, almonds, pine nuts, currants and served atop labneh.
Exclusive to the New York outpost is breakfast, which features dishes such as Eggs José’s Way (Spanish fried eggs, caramelized onions, and jamón ibérico) and Cilbir (poached eggs with whipped yogurt, Marash chili crisp).
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
- Price Point: $$$
- Takes Reservations: Yes
- Our favorite thing on the menu: Meat lovers should opt for the Hunkar Begendi––traditional Turkish braised lamb shank, eggplant, and kefalograviera cheese purée. All of the waitstaff agree, the Crispy Brussels Afelia––made with coriander seeds, barberries, and garlic yogurt––are not to be missed. The dessert menu consists of two options, which are equally sensational and also happen to change every so often; don’t even ask what they are, just order them!
- Our favorite drink on the menu: The Za’atar Margarita is bright and delicious––and very Instagrammable, due to the za’atar air in lieu of a salted rim. Adventurous drinks should try the Caleidoscope, made with Batavia Arrack, lemon, roasted sweet pepper, smokey urfa pepper, and wild Greek chamomile.
- The vibe: Bright décor inspired by the tranquility of the Mediterranean gives way to a buzzy dining room and bar in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton, NoMad. Flanked by locals and celebrities alike, this is the perfect spot to grab a drink on a third date or celebrate a special occasion.
- Casual or Fancy: Business casual
- Breakfast, lunch, or dinner: Breakfast: Monday – Friday 6:30 am – 10:30 am / Saturday & Sunday 7 am – 11 am; Lunch: Monday – Friday 11 am – 4 pm; Brunch: Saturday & Sunday 11 am – 4 pm; Dinner: Monday – Wednesday 4:30 pm – 10:30 pm / Thursday – Sunday 4:30 – 11 pm
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