Note: this restaurant is now closed
Zaytoon, an Arabic term for the olive, is mainly a bar, but has a few Middle Eastern style dishes, mostly meza style. The design is rather nice if you are into that sort of thing: think industrial modern. It is a huge soaring space in a new building. Lots of nice earth tones, concrete floors, large metal brackets, modern lighting, comfortable wood chairs, big windows that open to the street. An upstairs area for special events looks down to the space below. The entire place has a nice clean feel. If you really want to know what you look like, check out the bathrooms with their huge mirrors. My main concern? The space is too big and expensive to pay off. Unless they have an awfully large amount of money behind them, they’ll never last. Second concern: lots of hard surfaces to reflect noise. The volume of people talking here can make conversation difficult at times.
The focus here is obviously on the drinks which average $6.00-$7.00.
The wine list is small and nothing special. Happy hour needs work – $1.00 off some beers and well drinks? They’ll need to do more than that to bring people in. A sampler of some of their specialty cocktails:
Zaytooni – slightly dirty Kettle One martini served up with hand-stuffed olives $6.50
Pomtini – Kettle One vodka, fresh pomegranate, and lemon $6.50
Atomic Number 99 – Makers Mark, fresh ginger puree, and Lemon $6.00
Italian Sidecar – Tuaca, fresh lemon, lime, splash of orange $6.50
The Atomic Number 99 gets my vote as the most unusual and memorable drink. I’d go back just to have another.
Beer options were good, four available on tap: Elysian ESP, Mirror Pond, Pilsner Urquell, Terminal Gravity IPA, all $3.50 except $.50 more for the Terminal. There was also a selection of twenty bottled beers running the gamut from Miller to Frombois Lambic. Overall a good selection.
The food options are Middle Eastern in nature and include:
Traditional meza – Your choice of three items ($9.00) that come on a bed of limp lettuce. The hummus was nothing special, the aubergine tapenade dip with olives and roasted eggplant and fresh Bosnian lepina was not very good, there were some large olives that were breaded and cooked that were interesting and enjoyable, with more olives on the side. Overall we didn’t really enjoy this dish, nothing really stood out. Most everything comes with Middle Eastern style bread that was a bit too leavened for my taste and didn’t really work with the sauces. It was very soft, but too spongy and substantial for the sauces. On another trip it was very thin, but terribly greasy. Obviously they are experimenting and haven’t gotten it right yet.
The beit al- jamal lebne with fresh mint, olives, tomatoes, and zaatar with soup and salad is darn good, but I sure hope they take it off the menu when tomatoes are out of season. The olive tapenade again is nothing special.
Tabbouleh, a popular grain salad (pilaf) made with bulgur (parboiled wheat), chopped tomato, garlic, and scallions, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil was nice, no doubt due to the fine tomatoes that are currently in season.
Zaatar is a Middle Eastern spice mixture with thyme, sesame, and ground sumac, comes sprinkled in olive oil with bread for dipping. This was also a very pleasant appetizer that will appeal to those looking for a bread and olive oil type dish.
Finally, probably the best item on the menu is the hamburger, with Painted Hills organic beef, served on a lapina bun (a type of Bosnian flatbread), with feta, lettuce, tomato, zaatar, and lemon aioli for $6.50, $7.50 with grilled onions.
A few desserts are available by Jennifer Stephenson, most recently from Pix. A baklawa ($4.50) – philo with a walnut filling drenched in orange flower and rosewater syrup, as well as an orange crème Brûlée with orange zest and crushed cardamom seeds ($5.50)
Overall, this place is about the drinks. If I was in the area and wanted a cocktail, I would consider Zaytoon, especially as a late-night food destination. If I was only looking for food, there are too many better places on Alberta; I’d choose somewhere else.
Phone: (503) 284-1168
Address: 2236 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211
The funny thing about is that I find the bar menu just right. If you like a lighter menu, not a gut load of gooey, the mezza menu is just right. On the entree menu the prawns with a balsamic reduction is good too. Again, it’s not PDX comfort food.
I agree about the pita bread. I wish they could do the bread more like the Aladdin Cafe, but maybe it’s too labor intensive?
The bartenders are very professional and this is one place where you can get a Manhattan done correctly.
February 20th, 2007 at 3:35 pm