ZIZO – Lebanese food and conversations!

Beautiful Lamps at Zizo

A bite full of authentic Lebanese Food in Delhi and why numerous restaurants in Delhi, serve mediocre versions of most cuisines, including our own.

I have had a fun week. It swung between enjoying Pizza, strewn with chat masala at Pizza Express to authentic Lebanese Kibbeh at Zizo.

However, my experience at Zizo was starkly different this time. The restaurant, done up beautifully by Fouad Abdel Malak (CEO, ZIZO), has made changes in their décor and menu since my last visit. The Lebanese music in the background added more flare to the atmosphere.

We started off with Halawi Smoothie, made with banana, yoghurt, vanilla ice cream and Tahini (sesame seed paste made with sesame seed and oil) with grated pistachio on top. This tasted nothing like any other smoothie I’ve ever had. The flavour of Tahini was strong and distinct and it felt smooth, healthy and tasty.

The Cold Mezze Platter followed and looked pretty as a painting. Hummus and Fattoush salad with croutons and Summac sprinkled on top. It was dressed in freshly made in-house Lebanese organic Pomegranate Molasses Sauce. Accompanied by Falafel, Mixed Pickles, Tahini and Pita Bread. The fresh, crunchy vegetables were cut beautifully and the dressing of pomegranate molasses took the salad a notch higher.

However, it was the freshly baked fluffy, soft and warm Pitas, that filled my heart with joy! Chef Danny El Soury (the Executive Chef) looked after the service and made sure we paired the food correctly. He stuffed the pita with falafel (made out of a batter of chick pea and spices, fried till it’s brown and crunchy), pickles and tahini and served it to us. Honestly, a falafel roll had never tasted this delicious. It was the best combination of tangy pickles, soft pita, rich falafel and silky smooth tahini.

I was completely floored by the smoothness, deliciousness and subtleness of one of the finest traditional Hummus (chick pea paste mixed with tahini, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil). Also served in a different flavour as Basil Hummus, it had a great consistency and composition of Basil and traditional chickpea hummus. Another dip, named Moutabbal, made out of roasted eggplant, lemon juice, yoghurt and spices with garnished fresh pomegranate, left me gaping at the succulence of the dips.

After the fresh and light flavour combinations, we were served a much richer Hot Mezze Platter. It had Mini Zaat’ar Man’oushe, Veggies & Cheese Man’oushe, Lahm bi ajeen Man’oushe, Cheese rolls, Lamb Kibbeh, served with Chilli sauce and Garlic Dip. Zaat’ar Man’oushe was a small pizza like bread with Lebanese thyme and oil. I really liked the Lahm bi ajeen Man’oushe, which had Lebanese Meat pie with yoghurt and pine nuts. The meat devoid of heavy seasoning of spices, tasted of just pure meat, nuts and flatbread – simple yet hearty!

The cheese rolls were good, however, my favourite were the juiciest, meatiest, spicy Kibbeh Kebab and garlic dip, so spectacular, that I could eat them all day long. The Garlic dip had a smooth, fine texture of garlic and yoghurt, which almost felt like it was aerated and fluffed up. Nothing like, the horrible mayo that is served with Shawaramas all across Delhi.

As I thought of Shawaramas, a plate of Chicken Shawarmas was served. Made with the finest Pita, Grilled marinated Chicken Strips and Salad along with Garlic Dip and Pickles, it was the happiest and finest note of the whole feast. The chicken chunks were fat and juicy, cooked with the right amount of spices, keeping the chicken flavour intact. With fresh pickles and salad, this is the kind of shawarma, I remember, I had in Dubai.

Extremely passionate about his food, Chef Danny insisted, that eateries in Delhi serving Shawarmas should refrain from calling it Lebanese Shawarma, as in the guise of shawarmas, they are conning you into having roomali rolls with tasteless threadlike chicken, overtly mixed with mayonnaise and too many spices. And I think, after a bite of what he had served, I couldn’t help but agree. I can only imagine his frustration as he is so passionate about his food and culture and tries to share the food from his country, as authentically as possible.

This platter also had Batata Harra, crispy potato cooked with Lebanese chilli and garlic, garnished with fresh herbs. This tasted really good and would be comforting for those who prefer the spicy Indian food.

For the dessert, we had Cheese Kunafa, the warm Lebanese dessert made with homemade mozzarella cheese and in-house orange blossom syrup and garnished with pistachio. Thankfully, the sugar content was perfect and one could taste the distinct flavour of cheese. The orange blossom spruced up its freshness and unlike many Arabic, Turkish or Lebanese desserts, it didn’t feel heavy.

Cheese Kunafa - Zizo
Cheese Kunafa

I wondered, if people in Delhi would love this food as much as they love Al-Bake or similar places, which give them an Indianised version of Lebanese food? During my recent visit to Pizza Express, I felt that they were just trying to reach out to the Indian palate, without giving us a chance to enjoy authentic Italian flavours. Though, the food was decent, it undervalued my ability to like, accept or understand flavours other than my own.

I feel, I am always happy to meet people who’re passionate about their food and are brave enough to serve it the way they want to. As a food lover, I enjoy exploring diverse flavours, as I also get to learn a lot. I enjoy such meals much more. This time, the meal at Zizo was much more enjoyable, as I have evolved over the years. Having Chef Danny as our food companion was truly enjoyable, as he gave us a real insight into the real food and flavours of Lebanon.

In a nutshell:

Location: Located right opposite PVR Plaza in Connaught Place, Zizo is very easy to locate.

Atmosphere: Spread over two floors, Zizo is beautifully done up, with Lebanese-style graphics, motifs, lamps and seating.

Service: The manager and service boys are well informed about the menu and décor and their peculiar uniform will definitely catch your attention.

Food: Authentic Lebanese food. Do visit, as it’s hard to get such quality food in the capital.

Must Haves: Chicken Shawarma, Kibbeh with Garlic Dip, Hummus Trio with Pita and Lahm bi ajeen Man’oushe


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