Zaytinya: Greek Easter

Zaytinya Kleftiko 2012

Add an “F” to Easter and you get “Feaster” — as in feasting time!

If you follow the Gregorian Calendar – dig into baked ham, colored eggs, and all the symbolism of the Western branch of Christianity, but don’t stop there. On the Julian Calendar, Orthodox Easter isn’t until next Sunday – so there is plenty of time for feasting. For Orthodox Easter, Super Chef tried Jose Andres‘ Mediterranean temple of food, Zaytinya, which puts on an annual Easter feast that lasts for two weeks.

Zaytinya is a Lamb-a-palooza. Chef Michael Costa must dream of those white, fluffy spring lambs prancing on a plate before he goes to sleep. Zaytinya’s Easter menu is both rich in lamb flavor and light– the 12 courses won’t make you think of a nap.

First, lick your lips over the Attica and the Anastasis cocktails:

‘Attika — named after the Retsina wine-producing island. The cocktail is made from a combination of Plymouth gin infused with rose buds, lemon juice, house-made grenadine and garnished with Retsina air. Next is the Anastasis created with Beefeater gin, Cocchi Americano, kumquat liqueur and lemon juice.

The Retsina air is like a meringue that floats on the cocktail, so that you can smell the retsina as a separate flavor as you sip. In the Anastasis is a pearl of sour cherry – in celebration of Washington DC’s Cherry Blossom Festival.

The “Chef’s Experience menu” starts with Mayiritsa, a traditional lamb avgolemono broth poured from a pitcher over grape vine leaves stuffed with rice, caramelized onions, sautéed lamb’s liver. The broth captures the flavor of a roast leg of lamb, while the liver is assertive, but not overwhelming.

Two salads follow, including Maroulosalata with bright red ladolemono flowers that bring out a tangy flavor to the salad, refreshing and light. The Asparagus Salata – and asparagus are celebrated throughout the meal – is full of peeled, tender asparagus.

Then the meat! The Lamb’s Tongue is sliced paper-thin. Eat it with pickled chilis and candied pistachios so that the buttery meat is sandwiched by sweet, hot, and tart. The Loukaniko me Patates is served in a copper rimmed bowl. Mini lamb sausages, like Middle Eastern sujuk, with slice fingerling potatoes in a wine sauce were tangy and lemony. The sausage was served with Lamb Kleftica wrapped in house-made phylo with cheese along side English Pea Scordalia. Micro greens were sprinkled on practically every dish – bringing the flavors of spring – dill, pepper, lemon, and parsley to every bite. Finally, Arni me Sparanglia, lamb shoulder cooked sous vide so that it was buttery and tender, served with more asparagus in a lamb jus.

The Tsoureki Bread Pudding is a deconstructed bread pudding – the custard is turned into orange flower ice cream, the bread is light like perfect browned French toast. There are macerated strawberries and micro lemon mint that brighten the flavor. It is magnificent.

After such a meal and excellent service, it is easy to dream of fluffy white lamb prancing on a dinner plate.

MENU
Mayiritsa: Traditional lamb avgolemono broth, short grained rice, caramelized onions, lamb’s liver
Asparagus Salata: White asparagus tzatziki, pistachios, green asparagus, lemon zest
Greek Easter Maroulosalata: Green and red tango lettuce, caramelized myzithra cheese, ladolemono, flowers
Glossa: Thinly sliced lamb’s tongue, potato skordalia, green olives, pickled red chilis, celery, candied pistachios
Spanakorizo: Rice pilaf with wilted spinach and tomato, spinach puree, feta cheese, preserved cherry tomatoes
Bizeli me Yiaourti: English peas, garlic yogurt, pistachios, micro lemon mint
Arni me Sparangia: Lamb shoulder, asparagus, ladolemono, dill
Loukaniko me Patates: Traditional house made lamb sausage scented with orange and cumin, potato, garlic
Greek Easter Lamb Kleftico: Spit roasted lamb, kefalograviera cheese, english pea skordalia, feta, dill
Dessert: Tsoureki Bread Pudding, with mascerated strawberries, candied almonds, orange flower ice cream

Photo Gallery:
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