Maydan takes communal dining to a new level. Gathered around a crackling fire, guests watch a skilled culinary team smoke and marinate lamb shanks to smoky supremacy.
What to order
Don’t skimp on the eggplant, beets, or taktouka (no clue what that is? Read on!)
Hand it to Rose Previte to fuse American, African, and Middle Eastern cuisines into a hot (literally) eatery. Nestled in a rather secluded location, Maydan reservation-holders walk through an unmarked entry door to what seems to be a world away from Washington.
The restaurant’s name evokes a “gathering place,” and diners gather around the fire pit for a menu inspired by Previte’s Lebanese mother and travels through Georgia, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey. Chefs/co-owners Chris Morgan and Gerald Addison tend to twin clay ovens where they slow-roast meats hanging like holiday trimmings for 72 hours. Coals glowing over the fire, I’ll bet this is the most exotic, high-class barbeque you’ll ever attend.
Money Score: Good
My husband and I ordered a lot of food (we shared and made friends with the two ladies who joined our communal table), and it was reasonably priced for what it was. The chefs really care about the sourcing, the farm, and how they raise it.
Consciousness Score: Good
The chef was delighted to share the sourcing of the food, remaining transparent. Their lamb is sourced from Elysian Fields, a small sheep farm in Pennsylvania. I love their philosophy: Everything is pasture-raised, free-range, all-natural, but not certified organic. The farm raises lambs under a patented Safe Alternative® protocol rooted in humane treatment.
And Maydan recently made the switch to Halal chicken after numerous requests. While there isn’t much produce available locally, they work with Moon Valley to source as many local fruits and veggies as possible. They also work with small, five-acre farms in the suburbs and other small producers in Virginia, where all practices are organic in the highest standards. These farmers grow Turkish varietals–eggplants, chilies, etc.–especially for Maydan. Other sourcing includes organic seed companies, and for their spices, a mix from an Istanbul-based company.
‘All the Feels’ Score: Good
Embrace the experience: You’re going to leave smelling like fire and food two hours later (I had to dry clean my coat!). And while you may not be at summer camp, this may be the hottest, most stomach-satisfying version of glamping going this side of the Delaware.
No reservations? Arrive early, and expect to be told to leave in 90 minutes. In other words, they are essential.
The dress code may be casual, but it’s a scene. Crowd: cool, hipster-type. Vibe: High energy, lines out the door. It is the place to be.
The door handle is something else. Mysteriously etched, you’ll feel like Alice entering “eat me” Wonderland. Inside, the fire pit facing the amber-lit bar is the main attraction. Its copper top extends to the 20-foot-tall ceiling. Meats wrapped with herbs, hanging on hooks, encircle the staging area. In case you weren’t already hungry, regardless of where you sit, you’ll have a full view. But my spot was front and center at the bar, practically in the fanning fire.
Cutlery comes on a platter; food comes served on white-and-blue ceramic plates with azure, leaf-like designs. Step in the bathroom to spot blue tiles, a baroque, circular mirror, and knicknacks (some oriental, others not). A violet blossom candle flickers in a vain attempt to overpower the aroma of meat wafting in.
Lots of flavors and spices, but no heat. Selections ranged as follows: kebabs, seafood, vegetables, salads, and large plates.
We started with an assortment of colorful dippings drizzled with oil and sesame, from the Spreads selections, accompanied by cozy Naan bread. The bold-toned Beet Borani mixed with yogurt, dill, black sesame was exquisitely bright and fresh. The Baba Ganoush with eggplant, tahini, and garlic was delicious, as was the creamy Hummus drizzled with fresh olive oil–in true Middle Eastern fashion.
Other spreadables: Labreih with strained yogurt, dried mint; Mahuhammara with walnut, red pepper, and pomegranate (not enough walnuts for my liking!); and Taktoukka with stewed tomato, green peppers, and garlic. The bright tomatoes were standouts!
As for sides, melt-in-your-mouth, roasted-to-perfection Zucchini topped with a white sauce with ras el hangout (a North African spice) and scrumptious Baby Eggplant sprinkled with a Georgian walnut and pomegranate sauce for scrumptiously smoky-sweet undertones.
My husband particularly favored their Halloumi (a Turkish, semi-hard, unripened, brined) cheese, which starts out really sweet and ends really salty, thanks to a peppering of Egyptian Dhakka spice.
From the land, juicy Koobideh Beef Kebab with saffron, accompanied by a plethora of condiments: Tomato Jam with sesame and cinnamon; Toum with garlic, oil lemon (for garlic purists!); Zhough with parsley, cilantro, cumin, serrano; and Chermoula with lemon, garlic, parsley and saffron.
From the sea, the shrimp and sardines (not fishy!) were tastily marinated in the sultry Chermoula sauce.
For dessert, a pudding with Kunafa (cheese danish done Middle Eastern) with rose water, apricot almond, and creme, plus a slice of cheese topped with almonds and herbs.
There’s a reason people line around the block for a hunk of this wood-fired menu.