Brunch at AGORA, 19 August 2012

I need to get out to brunch more often.  Today I made it to AGORA, which is a couple of blocks from Dupont Circle.

AGORA has a prix fixe brunch menu for $29.95 with bottomless drinks.  They’re also nice enough to call out what menu options are gluten, dairy, or nut free for those that need to know.

There was pretty much no way I wasn’t going to order this option right here.

Being that it was 1130, I felt Mimosas were the best option, and out came a carafe (one of a few).  The server also brought out some pita bread and apricot jam to start things off.  The bread was piping hot, and was used to eat a lot of the other dishes.

Essentially, as many of these as you want (in a two-hour span).

I started off with Patlıcan Közleme (Charcoal smoked eggplant, green and red peppers, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, dill) and Labneh (Strained yogurt, diced apples, walnuts, savory and endive).  Both tasty starters.

Eggplant spread with peppers. Good cold mezze starter.

Another good starter…tangy labneh topped with diced apples.

Next up, I picked the Manchego, Basil, and Tomato Omelette (three farm fresh eggs with manchego, basil and tomato, served with a side of potatoes that went well with the rest of the omelette) and Cilbir (two farm fresh poached eggs topped with yogurt, sumac and spicy oil).  I first tried Cilbir at Zaytinya a few weeks ago, and this was just as good…before, I’m not sure I would’ve thought eggs and yogurt mixed together would be a good call.

Manchego, basil, and tomato omelette.

Cilbir…eggs with yogurt, sumac, and oil, with a side of tasty potatoes.

I closed out brunch with two dishes that were brunchy, but not as Mediterranean…the Pastirma Eggs Benedict (two farm fresh poached eggs with cured loin of beef topped with traditional Hollandaise sauce on English muffins) and French Toast (Challah bread dipped with egg-batter, dusted with powdered sugar. Served with maple syrup.)

The Pastirma Eggs Benedict was really tasty…hard to go wrong with Eggs Benedict at brunch.

French toast…not much different from the norm here.

This was a good bottomless brunch for a good price…I’d encourage you to check it out.

1527 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 332-6767

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Zaytinya, May-June 2012

I can’t get enough of Zaytinya, José Andrés’ Mediterranean restaurant near Chinatown.  I’ve been there four times in the last couple months…great food and drinks.  It works well as a date place, or for a quick, light dinner at the bar.  Zaytinya is almost always busy – I’d recommend reservations if you can get them.  They do however allow for walk-ins, and there is usually a little bit of space available for this at the bar earlier/later in the evening from what I’ve seen.

“Zaytinya” means “olive oil” in Turkish, according to Zaytinya’s website. The bread pictured can be used to pick up most of the mezze. The “Z” in the oil is pomegranate molasses, adding a sweet tanginess to the oil.

The dishes are mezze (small plates).  I’d recommend four per couple and work from there.  Here’s my recommendations:

  • Kibbeh Nayeh – “Lebanese style beef tartare ground to order, bulgur wheat, radish, mint, pita chips.”  This is my favorite, and every time I finish it, I want to order a second helping.  This is very rare (read: raw), so be prepared for that.  If you like sushi, you’d probably like this…texture-wise it’s pretty similar.
  • Octopus Santorini – “Grilled Mediterranean octopus, marinated onions, capers, yellow split pea puree.”  The best octopus I’ve had anywhere.  Not chewy like you’d expect…extremely tender.  The yellow split pea puree and capers adds a nice tanginess to the dish.
  • Lamb Kleftico – Shredded lamb in phyllo on a dill yogurt sauce with feta.  This dish has been on Zaytinya’s special menu for awhile…I’m hoping they’ll just move it over to the regular one so that it doesn’t disappear.
  • Snail Kibbeh – “Crispy potato crusted snails, baharat spiced labne, heirloom lettuces.”  I’m a fan of snails wherever I can find them.  This dish is excellent.

I haven’t gotten anything at Zaytinya that I wouldn’t get again, so these recommendations are not a complete list (for some more examples, check out this review…he’s got some great shots).

The former executive chef at Zaytinya was Mike Isabella (as seen on season 6 of Top Chef), who has since moved on to open Graffiato (one of the next stops on my list), and last week he opened his new Mexican restaurant, Bandolero.  The current chef (since 2010) is Michael Costa, and he is clearly doing great things there.

Kibbeh Nayeh…

…Lamb Kleftico…

…Octopus Santorini…

…Snail Kibbeh…

…Baba Ghannouge.

Zaytinya also has a creative cocktail menu with Mediterranean flair.  A couple I’ve had recently:

  • Clean Monday – “Cucumber & mint infused Plymouth Gin, St. Germain, Cava.”  Nice and light…good compliment for the mezze.
  • Corfu Buck – “Rittenhouse Rye, house-made kumquat liqueur, fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, ginger beer.”  Fruity but not overly sweet…another good pairing.

They have a pretty extensive liqueur collection (noticed crème de violette and allspice dram) so they’ll more than likely be able to make you your favorites.  They also have a number of different house-made mixers and infusions to spice up their drinks (besides the ones in the above drinks, they’ve also got apricot-infused Metaxa Brandy, lemon verbena-infused vodka, and orange-thyme syrup, to name a few).

Clean Monday…

…Corfu Buck.

Zaytinya is definitely a place to hit over and over again.  If you haven’t yet been to this restaurant, remedy that.  You’ll probably see me there.

701 9th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 638-0800
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