Like all Renaissance men, Iron Chef and Puerto Rico peacekeeper Jose Andres is effortlessly graceful (and alarmingly good) at everything he does
Which sums up Zaytinya to a fault.
The new Frisco spot, a partnership between the chef’s restaurant group and Turkey-based d.ream, is exceedingly attractive. The service is attentive but never uncomfortably so. And the food, well, the food is superb.
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Just the second U.S. outpost — the other is in Washington, D.C . — Zaytinya’s North Texas location might strike some as curious, but one visit to The Star in Frisco, and you’ll see the Mediterranean-influenced restaurant is in good company. (See accompanying story.)
Still, I can’t see choosing any of the other options over this elegant ode to Turkish, Greek and Lebanese food.
You’re in able hands the moment you walk through the doors into the bright-white dining room, where the staff is warm, and has more than a clue. And as you’re led to your table, various open kitchens provide glimpses of the assured dance of veteran cooks.
The vibe: At the time we visited, the restaurant was less than a week old, but Zaytinya was giving a clinic in stellar service. Bread appeared on the table moments after we settled into our seats, our water was zealously refilled once it ventured into half-empty territory, and when a certain someone who has an uncanny knack for needing the facilities the very moment any food is deposited on the table required a trip to the restroom, a staff member materialized and offered to lead the way.
Our Sunday early dinner saw the main room perhaps half-full, yet many patrons seemed to sport a certain smug expression. Andres acolytes view the man as virtually infallible. Knowing this, who could ever doubt that the meal to come would be anything less than exceptional?
The food: Think Mediterranean tapas, and you’re on the right track. "Sharing is caring" is encouraged here, with the menu composed of types of mezze, or appetizer, plates. And with head chef Jonathan Thompson, who helped open chef Stephan Pyles’ Samar and Stampede 66 in Dallas, at the helm, you know you’re in more-than-capable hands.
First, puffy pylons of bread, not unlike the discs served at Fort Worth’s long-missed Hedary’s, are placed at various posts on the table. Dusted with a light cornmeal, the bread was airy and a delicious vehicle in which to gather the oil and pomegranate molasses mixture, which comes in a small bowl.
The hummus ma lahm ($9) was unlike any hummus I’ve ever had. A pool of near-pureed chickpeas surrounded a mound of ground lamb. Pickled julienned parsnips and pine nuts serves as garnish for texture, and I could have eaten just the smooth dip all night long.
The mushroom saganaki ($12) was a generous serving of wild mushrooms interspersed with silky sun-dried tomatoes and melty nubs of salty cheese. The mushroom lover at the table was in heaven, and yet the earthiness quotient was off the charts. It was almost — almost — too much of a good thing, and I did wish we had more adults at the table with whom we could share. Kids + mushrooms = disaster (or at least to my offspring).
Even more crowd-pleasing, however, were the Greek fries ($6), a cone of superior spuds I wish had existed when I wrote an article on the area’s best fries. The golden-brown lengthy spears, crispy on the outside and super-creamy on the inside, were perfect for dunking into the tzatziki-esque accompaniment — and for mopping up any errant hummus.
A touch more highbrow were the sea scallops ($14), two large, luscious beauties wading in a pool of dill yogurt and paper-thin radishes. The seared spheres were exceptional, just a touch briny, and topped with a sesame rose seasoning that added spicy oomph.
On terra firma, the chicken shish taouk ($20) and beef keftedes ($10) were also accomplished takes. Grilled pieces of juicy chicken with a garlicky white sauce went into the bread, which went into the little ones’ mouths quite quickly, and the two beef and lamb meatballs, dusted with feta and allspice, rivaled the heartiness of the mushroom saganaki.
The verdict: We’re still dreaming of those scallops and French fries — and, come to think of it, the hummus and the mushrooms —because our dinner at Zaytinya exceeded our already-high expectations. Here’s hoping Andres is behind a new fast-speed train that might whisk Fort Worthians to Frisco in under 15 minutes. I think he has it in him.
6555 Winning Drive, Suite 600Frisco972-324-3060www.zaytinya.comHours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday. Brunch, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (full menu available during brunch hours)
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The Dallas Cowboys offered a sneak peak at their new practice facility, which will be shared with all Frisco ISD high schools. email@example.com