Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Restaurant Revisit: Zaytinya

One of my old friends from a study abroad program in London awhile back (some fun posts here, here and here) is in town for an internship. As a fellow foodie, I knew I had to figure out an impressionable restaurant to meet at and decided upon Zaytinya.

The setup is shared plates, so if you go, expect to order quite a few to share for your table. I think four is enough for two people. It really depends on your hunger level. On certain days I could have gone with more plates but for this night it was enough. 

We started off our meal with some drinks, red wine for her and a Pom Fili for me (white wine, vodka, pomegranate) – I get this every time I go and I love it. 

Once seated every table receives pita and olive oil mixed with a pomegranate molasses – delicious.

Now on to the good stuff. Amy is a vegetarian so we stuck to that side of the menu which I was more than ok with. Veggies from Zaytinya are ALMOST enough to turn me vegetarian.  

Dolmades (grape leaves) – Perfect, not too briny. Definitely a favorite here. 
Bantijan Bil Laban (crispy fried eggplant) – My favorite dish here. I get it every time I come here.
Crispy Brussels Afelia – A dish that came highly recommended by our server and a few of Amy’s friends. They were delicious. I loved the crispy outer layer and the addition of the barberries.
Spanakopita – A classic dish with a twist. Instead of the normal triangles, it comes in a different shape. Basic, but good. 
Even though the restaurant was crazy packed service was on point. Our waiter was very animated and very knowledgable without being pushy or annoying. As always, the food is great - I highly recommend this place but I would make a reservation, it gets crazy packed. 

Would I come back? Yes! This is my 3rd/4th time back, I still love it! 

Past Visits: 
August 2011
April 2013

701 9th Street NW
Washington, DC
Zaytinya on Urbanspoon

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Washington DC: The Gryphon

You know when you have had the perfect day, where it ends with a smile? That just happened to be my day yesterday (and when it's a workday…a perfect day is even better). It started off with meeting the former White House Press Secretary and having a group workout sponsored by my company (during work hours!) ...yeah, sometimes I really like my job. The day ended with a visit to a new restaurant in Dupont Circle (only about a month old!) called The Gryphon - it may just be one of my new favorite restaurants in the area.
Before we get into the food, let's talk about the appearance of the actual restaurant. Located in Dupont Circle it's easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the area. The Gryphon manages to stand out by being open and inviting to any passerby. The inside is slightly mysterious, yet very comfortable. 
The Gryphon was originally a sports bar, but soon after it originally opened it was shut down for renovations. When it reopened about a month ago, it became something magical - a steak and raw bar - and don't worry, they still have plenty of TVs if you are trying to catch a game! 

Once seated, they bring you out truffled potato chips. Wonderfully delicious - I have a weakness for things that have any sort of truffle involved. I really enjoyed how it wasn't the typical bread and butter, much lighter and a lot more fun. 
Over the course of the night we tried four drinks (2 each) the Artemis Vertue, The Gyphon, Sirens Call and Aphrodite's Kiss. The drink menu isn't online - but here is is below, along with the descriptions of the drinks we had below. 
The favorite of the night was the Artemis Vertue - light, refreshing and ready to make a gin lover out of those who avoid it, plus it was served in a mason jar - even better! You may hesitate over a $12 cocktail, but they were worth it - good quality liquor and ingredients really does make a difference. My only complaint is that I wish The Gryphon had a little more strawberry flavor to it.  Carrie loved the touch of Lavender in Aphrodite's Kiss.
The menu is set up to be shared tapa style divided into 3 sections: raw bar, shared plates and bigger plates of steak. Being that I can barely stomach fish, especially those that are rare we skipped that section of the menu. We stuck to a bunch of shared plates - selections below. 

We started off with something light (needed to get some ruffage in) - the Kale Salad $8.50 Balsamic Dressing, Sunflower Seeds, Currants, Dried Pineapple, Aged Gouda. The salad was light, delicious and packed full of flavor - a perfect start. The kale wasn't bitter at all and would be a perfect dish to get you to start liking kale if you avoid it. My only complaint is that I wish the kale was cut into smaller pieces, having to cut a salad is inconvenient (or you could just shove the big bite in your mouth, whatever works).
Next, based off the recommendation of our waiter as a daring dish (because I wouldn't try any of the raw bar selection), was the Roasted Bone Marrow $7.50 Shallot Mustard Jam, Baguette. This was quite an experience, a first for me and I was quite proud that I managed to eat it. Bone marrow has a fattier texture so it's not for the weak stomached. This is a "do it yourself" type of dish. You have to scrape the bone marrow out and spread it on the bread. Fun for the first time...or if you are a bone marrow lover. 
Now on to the fun part, steak! We each picked a steak dish to share. I went with the Wet Aged Hanger $13.50 Szechuan Peppercorn, Coriander, Ginger Scallion Sauce that our server recommended (the GM told me this dish is the staff favorite) and Carrie chose the Wet Aged Bistro Filet $12.50 Fried Brussel Sprouts, Speck Ham, Bearnaise SauceThese dishes are what made me fall in love with The Gryphon, two completely different yet ridiculously delicious ways of eating steak. The scallion sauce on the first steak made it a lighter, fresher dish (if steak can be light and fresh?). I never thought I would enjoy Bearnaise on a steak but it worked surprisingly well, paired with the fried brussels and crispy ham, it really made for a lovely combo.  
Our server suggested that we try the Mac N Cheese $8.50 Smoked Gouda, Gruyere, CheddarA delicious and cheesy combo, the panko on top was the kicker that brought this dish from good to great. 
We ended the meal with the Bread Pudding. This has never been my favorite dessert but it came recommended so I decided to try it out. Still not my favorite dessert but I really enjoyed this dish. 
This meal was perfection - one I will definitely be coming back to for a repeat performance. A perfect restaurant for a date night or a girls/boys/foodie night. Getting a few things and splitting makes for a fun dining experience and everything I tried tonight I wouldn't hesitate to order again. In fact I have already made plans to come back and brunch here with a few friends later this month! 

If you work in the area, they have an awesome lunch special - $12.50 for 1/2 sandwich, a salad and french fries, a best of both worlds sort of deal - you no longer have to choose between french fries and salad.

Bottomless brunch always gets me - and The Gryphon just happens to offer it - $14.50 for their bottomless brunch bar (if you order food, if not it's $20) - which has about 9 different drinks you can choose from. The food is similar to dinner, a social bites offering with a few more breakfast dishes thrown in the mix. 

If you go, tell them I sent you! 

Would I come back? I think we've covered that, I am dying to try more of their steak dishes! 

1337 Connecticut Ave
Washington, DC
The Gryphon on Urbanspoon

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I was invited to The Gryphon on the house, but was not compensated in any way for this post and all thoughts and opinions are my own.