Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Tapas Treats at Zaytinya and Zengo
I was fortunate to have two great tapas meals with friends on a single, gluttonous day. Both meals made me reassess two restaurants in a more positive light. Maybe it was that tapas is the perfect antidote to a humid DC summer day, or I was fortunate enough to order the right things, but my experiences last week at Zaytinya and Zengo, located about two blocks from one another in Gallery Place proved fabulous.
In the past I found Zaytinya over-rated, and Zola downright disappointing. But not this time!
At Zaytinya I was dining with a vegetarian which is always a good excuse for my meat loving self to try something I wouldn't ordinarily order. Anyone who has been to Zaytinya, with its Mediterranean-inspired menu of small plates, knows that the puffy, hot pita sets a great tone for the meal. And this time, our choices were fresh, vibrant, and easily devoured. The spanakopita was hot and crispy, the stuffed grape leaves were zesty, the citrus salad tart, and the hummus an apt compliment to it all. Lunch for two with four shared tapas, tax, and tip was $22 a person. They also have a four course four tapas option fro $22 a person exclusive of tax and gratuity if you happen to be really hungry!
And after a few hours to digest, it was time for dinner. My first trip to Zengo was a bust at lunch, but dinner proved surprisingly different. The atmosphere was pleasant and the tapas were unique and flavorful. My friend and I opted to share four, which strangely enough included the best soft shell crab preparation I have ever eaten--lightly fried, topped by guacamole, and paired with pickled red cabbage and corn tortillas. The chicken empanadas (pictured above) were well balanced with a spicy filling wrapped in a hot, fried pocket with a cooling pineapple topper. Duck tacos were served with dakon radish for wrapping, and spicy beef noodles got a crunch from the inclusion of asparagus.
And the perfect compliment to these flavors, were potent fresh squeezed cocktails. At $11, they are not cheap, but are well-mixed and potent. If you are there between 5 - 7pm they are also available for $5 in the bar during happy hour. Dinner with four shared tapas, a cocktail each, tax, and tip was $43 a person. Oh, and I have to mention this; the bathrooms are just cool. Be sure to check them out if you go.
I will be back to both soon.