Words by Kaylee Dugan, Photos by Clarissa Villondo
We talk about José Andrés a lot on this website. If you’re not a fan of the man and his food empire (especially in light of recent events) then you can (and probably should) stop here. When Andrés starts to produce mediocre food and drinks in mediocre environments, I like to think I’d be the first person to speak up. But he isn’t. Everything ThinkFoodGroup has done, at least in D.C., has and continues to be impeccable.
Zaytinya‘s dinner with Brooklyn Brewery was no exception. While I’d never been a huge fan of the brewery (it’s nothing personal, I just find their beers to be a little on the boring side), I was excited to see what kind of flavors the pairings would elicit. Zaytinya isn’t ThinkFoodGroup’s most inventive restaurant (that would be China Chilcano but we haven’t been to Fish), everything about the place feels like an instant, unshakeable classic. From the high ceilings and stark white walls, to their expansive Mediterranean menu. If Zaytinya was a human I wouldn’t want to fuck with them.
It was no surprise that Brooklyn Brewery’s offerings just couldn’t compete with the food menu. I’ve been to beer dinners where the opposite was true, and the beer was leagues beyond the dinner, so I’m almost positive it wasn’t just me. Where Zaytinya’s offerings more often than not crackled with flavor in slightly unexpected ways, BB’s adherence to more well known beer styles just didn’t do it for me.
Stand outs from the meal included the cured bronzino, with potato skordalia, chives, and crispy potatoes, which was bright and citrusy, while feeling delicate and decadent. It was what I imagine the super rich have for lunch every day. The foie gras kibbeh was perhaps my favorite course. I try not to order foie gras when I’m in restaurants because it makes me feel morally superior and allows me to make my dining mates feel bad, which makes everything more fun. Whether or not you want to throw your moral compass out the window is up to you, but this was without a doubt the best foie gras dish I’ve had. It was a lesson in how wonderfully juxtaposition can work in the kitchen. The bulger wheat shell’s filled with foie gras gave a variety of texture, while the shell helped cut through the rich fattiness of the foie. The roasted beet “kibbeh nayeh” was fresh, flavorful, and was a great counter point to those foie balls. It was a dish where all the different components where fighting for your attention, but it worked.
The best combination of beer and food came from the pork belly and venison kebab, which was served with Brooklyn Brewery’s Belair Sour. It was a fatty and rich dish, so the bubbly and tart sour was exactly the kind of drink my body craved. Otherwise, I did truly enjoy the Quintaceratops, a Belgian style quadrupel ale that’s aged in rum and bourbon barrels. It’s a little on the funky side, but the distinct malt and molasses taste made it fun to sip and I can see it being an excellent after dinner beer.
Basically, this is my long and convoluted way of telling you to go to Zaytinya.