Small-plates, or tapas-styled restaurants are becoming increasingly popular. Most of the time, the menu features Spanish or Mediterranean cuisine. You can order a variety of vegetable, fish, and meat dishes, ranging in flavors and cooking methods. With such an assortment of foods prepared in all kinds of different ways, how are you supposed to choose a wine that will go with whatever you order?

Whenever I go to a small plate styled restaurant, Rosé is the wine that I usually turn to, especially if it is sparkling. Rosé, regardless if it has bubbles or not, is light enough to enjoy with the vegetarian dishes, dips, and yogurt-based sauces. Fish, no matter how it is prepared, always goes with the fruity flavors of a Rosé. Meat plates, like Kebobs or meatballs do not overpower the wine, either. In my opinion, I find that sparkling wines bring out the best in food. Something about the bubbles help to move the flavors around the palate in such a way that is pleasing to the taster.

(If you are not a fan of Rosé, I would recommend a medium-bodied white wine, like Chardonnay or Albariño, or a light red wine, like Pinot Noir or Gamay. All of these wines can be paired with an array of different foods due to their body and flavor.)

To showcase Rosé’s versatility, I went to José Andrés’ restaurant, Zaytinya. If you live in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia), you have probably heard of José Andrés. He is a Spanish-American chef that specializes in small-plate styled cuisine, using only fresh and local ingredients. Andrés is not just DMV renowned, but world renowned, owning several restaurants in DC as well as across the continent of North America.

Zaytinya features small plates from the Mediterranean countries of Greece, Lebanon, and Turkey. It is across the street from the National Portrait Gallery and next to Chinatown. The restaurant is in a bustling part of DC that is great for people watching, so sit outside if you can! The staff are knowledgable and give you honest recommendations, making sure that you have a variety of food.

Small plates from Zaytinya
Fattoush and Cretan Dakos Salata with House-Made Lavash Chips

I went to Zaytinya with my mom, and we ordered a little bit of everything. We had different kinds of salads (pictured above), fried vegetable dishes (not pictured), fish (pictured below), and lamb kebob (not pictured). The Sparkling Rosé was a great accompaniment to everything that we ate.

One pairing that left me in awe was the ’15 Akakies Rosé with the Octopus Santorini. This is a Sparkling Rosé from Greece with a wonderful aroma of cherry, strawberry, and rose. The taste was more citrusy, with a lovely, rose finish at the end. The Octopus was grilled with pickled onion, capers, and an amazing yellow split pea puree.

Small Plates from Zaytinya
Akakies Sparkling Rosé with Octopus Santorini

Together, the pairing was absolutely sensational. The split pea, the octopus, and the salty capers brought out the cherry and rose flavors of the wine. It was a perfect balance of earthy, salty, bitter, and sweet. I can’t remember a time when I was this satisfied and contented by food. I didn’t even want to look at the dessert menu for fear of taking that feeling away! That’s when you know you’ve had a “grape” pairing!

Questions for you:

  1. What are some wines that you find work at a small-plate styled restaurant?
  2. Do you typically order veggies, fish, or meat when at a small-plate restaurant?
  3. Any other small-plate restaurants that you’d recommend?

Restaurant: Zaytinya, 701 9th Street NW

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