“Zizo” is the word on everyone’s lips when I ask my foodie friends for a good place to eat. A fast casual food chain serving authentic Lebanese cuisine, Zizo, which recently opened in Connaught Place Delhi, has succeeded in creating quite a positive buzz within a short span of time. Its popularity seems to be spreading by word of mouth.
I cannot remember when I had last eaten a decent Lebanese meal in Delhi. What goes by the name of Lebanese are mostly hole-in-the-wall joints serving Shawarma, or restaurants serving a mezze platter with hummus, falafel and pita bread, as a concession to Lebanese. On hearing that the renowned Chef Maroun Chedid, winner of the coveted title of Chef of the Year 2013 by the Tocques Blanches du Monde in Monaco, has conceptualized and executed the menu at Zizo, I head to CP, to try out the flavours of Lebanon. Authenticity is not something that I am unduly worried about, confident that the team behind running Zizo will not tamper with it.
Located in K Block of Connaught Place’s Outer Circle just opposite the PVR Plaza, the restaurant is easy to find. As one enters, one sees eye-catching jars filled with pickled vegetables, strategically placed under the service counter. There are shelves lined with cookbooks by noted author on Lebanese cuisine, Barbara Abdeni Masaad, which one can either browse through or buy. The décor is contemporary and the 96 cover restaurant is spread on two levels. The restaurant is attractive and cosy and the ambience augurs well for the ensuing meal.
The serving staff is courteous and adequately informed about the dishes on the menu. I am told that they are working hard on getting their Arabic diction right, a rarity in restaurants these days, where even the simplest of dishes are commonly mispronounced. The menu cover which says “A Bite of the Simple Life” is simple enough and divided into sections like Salads, Cold & Hot Mezze, Fresh from the Oven which features the Lebanese Flatbread Man’oushé, Rolls, Main Dishes, Desserts and Drinks.
There is a variety of drinks to choose from like Lemonades, Rosewater and Watermelon Passion fruit juice, all ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 220. I begin with the highly recommended Mulberry Juice (Rs 220) which is made from a concentrate imported from Lebanon. Very refreshing and different though a tad sweet.
A well made hummus is a good benchmark to judge the authenticity or otherwise of any Lebanese restaurant. The Traditional Hummus (Rs 240) served here passes the muster, though it is the Spicy Hummus (Rs290) which I can foresee becoming very popular. Both come with an unlimited supply of the freshest and fluffiest Pita bread. One can easily make a meal just out of this.
Since I am on a quest to try out authentic dishes I order the Crusted Shankleesh Salad (Rs 320) which is a Green Salad topped with Lebanese Cheese balls, homemade aged cheese blended with zaatar (dried wild thyme). It is dressed in a Special Rosewater Vinaigrette which has me smacking my lips. The cheese has a slightly fermented odour which I love. The way to eat the salad, I am told, is to crumble the cheese balls and mix them with the greens. For the not so adventurous, it is better to stick to the familiar Fattoush Salad (Rs 290).
The Hot Mezze section has traditional Middle Eastern dishes like Foul Mudammas(Rs220) (simmered fava beans) and Fatté,(Rs 240) a wholesome dish of chickpeas layered with toasted pita bread and garlic yogurt. This dish has certain rusticness about it which I would put in the category of comfort food. The Falafel (Rs 340) which comes both in the traditional and the spicy variant is crisp on the outside and soft inside. It is notches above what is available elsewhere in Delhi.
An entire section of the menu is dedicated to the Lebanese flatbread called Man’ouché (Rs 190-320) which come with different toppings like Zaatar, Cheese, and Veggies. A much healthier option than a pizza, this is bound to become popular with the calorie conscious.
Among the rolls, I try the Chicken Dips Rumman Roll (Rs 230) which is kind of a Lebanese Fajita. The taste of the Pomegranate Molasses used in it lingers on my taste buds long after I have finished my meal. There are also the Chicken Shawarma, Shish Taouk and Labné Garden Rolls, all reasonably priced between Rs 160 to Rs 230.
There is a certain tangy and tart flavour in the dishes, imparted by the use of Sumac, a traditional cherry coloured spice imported from Lebanon, which I love. The Zaatar or the wild thyme spice mix used is grade A, organic and unadulterated. It lends an authenticity to the dishes not found in other Lebanese restaurants.
I do not have any room to try out the Main Dishes which comprise of Chicken Moghrabieh (Rs 460), Oriental Leg of Lamb (Rs 540) and a Potato Pie (Rs 380). Not too many options here, but I am sure there will be additions to this section in the future.
There is plenty to choose from in the dessert section. The Baked Halawa Cheese Cake (Rs 290) and the Chocolate Banana Man’oushé (290) are what I would recommend, along with the sinful Baklava. At the end there is Turkish Coffee (Rs 90) to wash it all down.
Most of the dishes served at Zizo are healthy options sans oil and are made from fresh and top quality ingredients sourced from the best places around the world and India. This is easily discernible the moment one begins to eat. There is plenty of choice for the vegetarians too. What gladdens the heart is the competitive and pocket friendly pricing. And yes, this is one restaurant where one just looks forward to going back.
The vision of Fouad Abdel Malak , the Co-Founder /CEO of Zizo was “to create something so unique and compelling that it becomes contagious”. He seems to have done just that with Zizo.
Ratings (Out of 5)
Food: 4.0 | Ambience: 4.0 | Service: 4.0 | Overall: 4.0
Meal for two: Rs 1000 | Alcohol: No | Credit Card: Yes | Wheelchair Friendly: No
Address: Zizo, K-18 & 22 Connaught Place, New Delhi | Phone: 70425-55444
Disclaimer: This review was done on an invitation from the restaurant. Due judgment and care has been applied by the author to remain objective and unbiased in the review, but readers need to consider this review keeping this fact in mind.