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West Asian delights

A delicacy offered at Zizo

A delicacy offered at Zizo   | Photo Credit: 16dmc Rahul1

Serving an array of authentic Lebanese cuisine, Zizo’s fare can be simply described as “acchha hai”

I wonder if anybody remembers El Arab, which was, as far as I can recall, the first restaurant in Delhi serving West Asian food. This was in The Cellar’s, which was an iconic restaurant for Delhi’s youth for a long, long time. El Arab downed its shutters many years ago, and Cellar followed suit some years later.

Delhi has had some encounters with Lebanese food since then. But Zizo, a restaurant in Connaught Place, with a branch in Gurgaon, believes that it is the only place serving authentic Lebanese food. I like the way Chef Danny Elsoury describes his food. The man from Lebanon, who has picked up a few relevant Hindi words, digs into his hummus with a piece torn out of a soft pita bread, and says, “Acchha hai.”

I had been invited to Zizo many months ago, but never managed to go there. The CP outlet has been open for two years now and the Gurgaon one for several months. Next month, it will open an outlet in the Mall of India in Noida. The menu is also being tweaked.

We started with a hot mezze platter (Rs. 480) –– which consisted of mini pizzas or pies, some with vegetarian toppings (vegetable and cheese, and zaatar, which is a mix of spices and herbs), and some with chicken and lamb, chicken kibbeh, which are small balls of minced meat, and cheese rolls. I enjoyed the platter immensely –– and what made it all the more delicious was the garlic dip it came with –– fluffy garlic peaks beaten in olive oil.

We had a salad called fattoush –– which is a mixed vegetable salad with organic sumac and pomegranate vinaigrette (Rs.320/200) and batata harara (Rs.220) –– crispy potato cubes with a chilli garlic paste, quite like our aloo chaat.

The two dishes that I enjoyed the most were the Provencale chicken wings (Rs.320), chicken with lemon and coriander sauce, and hummus ras asfour (Rs.380) –– tossed chicken in a pomegranate sauce with a ring of hummus around it. The hummus, indeed, was delicious, wonderfully creamy and thick. The Provencale chicken came in a very light and tangy sauce, which I enjoyed. But I think the dish was just a wee bit too tangy. The Lebanese, the chef tells me, like their food with lemon juice in it. But I think lemon wedges should come with the dishes, to be added according to one’s personal liking.

We ended the meal with a cheese kunafa (Rs. 190), a delightful dessert of semolina, flavoured with orange blossom syrup and rose water. Chef Danny points out that the rose water of Lebanon is fragrant but not overpowering, as it can be in some Indian desserts. The chef likes to stress the fact that a lot of the ingredients which he uses (such as the rose water) come from Lebanon. “So it is authentic,” he says.

Some of the sauces are also on sale, as are pickled vegetables, which are lined up on the counter.

A dish that I did want to try out, but didn’t because I was absolutely full by the end of the evening, is the Lebanese man’oushe –– a flatbread flavoured with zaatar and topped with ingredients such as spicy tomato, lamb, mixed cheese and so on. They have brought in a special oven from Lebanon to bake these breads, which are often called Lebanese pizzas.

I like Zizo, and I like the chef’s outlook (and his politics, I might as well add. He gave me a long lecture about the battle for fuel in West Asia). And his food can be described in two succinct words –– acchha hai.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 5:20:35 AM |

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