Zaitzeff goes about as far out on the low-pretense burger limb as possible without toppling into haute. The restaurant is classy and minimal, black chairs against white walls. Wine and Champagne fill the shelves above a long wooden bar. Candles are lit for dinner service. A jazz soundtrack plays when reggae, oldies or electronica aren’t mixed in. Two beef burger offerings are the main draw, organic Kobe and sirloin in quarter- and half-pound iterations, with a heartiness that dispels any flirtation with preciousness. The Kobe is the more refined, with a super-smooth patty, although its flavor doesn’t stray too far ahead of the regular sirloin, which has ample character of its own. Coarse-cut fried onions and a Portuguese muffin add hints of sweetness, in counterpoint to the savory meat. For additional richness, avocado and a creamy white cheddar are available as toppings. Ingredients are fresh and the dill dusting the salads aside the burgers adds even more brightness to the flavors. The Idaho fries are solid, hand-cut and cooked in an iron skillet, but eclipsed by a sweet potato alternative. Lighter bites form the menu’s balance, with seven salads and tuna and chicken sandwiches. As a final check-in with humility, breakfast is served all day.
18 Ave. B (near 2nd St.); 212-477-7137; zaitzeffnyc.com