In my quest to keep trying new cuisines, I reached this restaurant serving Lebanese food in Connaught Place, Delhi. And discovered a nation.
Words: Ambica Gulati
The beauty of living in a cosmopolitan city is the quest for the new and the varied is a never ending one. So when invited for a review to Zizo which has completed a year, I was all game to let the palate savour something different.
I didn’t do any research on the country but sometimes walking into the unknown has its own charm. The conversation with CEO and Co Partner Fouad Abdel Malak and Resident Executive Chef Danny El Soury was much richer. By the way, the duo do a lot of research when inviting someone for review and even read their earlier works, so when Chef El Soury in the middle of the conversation informed me that I knew French I was taken aback.
Bordered by Syria and Israel, the earliest signs of civilisation in Lebanon can be traced back to over 7,000 years. And Chef El Soury elucidated that the country is smaller than Delhi and you can drive around and enjoy the landscape. It doesn’t need an extensive rail network or lots of airports to explore this ancient land. People like big cars and the good life. Malak who was an advertising professional in Dubai decided to do something on his own and landed in awesome, chaotic India.
Now, despite the ups and downs, highs and lows, the duo is busy keeping authentic Lebanese cuisine alive in Delhi through Zizo. And more outlets are to open in Gurgaon, Noida and Mumbai.
Sitting with them is an education on the authenticity of the cuisine. They have trained the kitchen staff, got in an oven all the way from Lebanon for the tools matter as much as the flavours. Though most ingredients are sourced from India, some do need to come from Lebanon as well. And again the emphasis on the way it’s eaten in Lebanon and that’s what they want to keep alive–add to the cosmopolitan culture of Delhi and not get lost in the fusion with addition of unnecessary spices, masalas and oils.
On the menu are platters, wraps, grills, mocktails, cocktails and desserts. While the two men guided me on how to eat the food and the right amount of flour to be used for each bread, I eyed the greens on the table. This cuisine is a health-conscious freak’s delight. You don’t see a lot of oil floating on the dishes, but find lots of fresh dips, greens and olives. And the soft bread is easy to chew and swallow. “The shawarma on the road is not a Lebanese wrap, its lost fusion food,” say the men very emphatically, their faces screwed at the distortion of their precious roll. And after tasting one at Zizo, I completely agree that the street food has been twisted and not an original coming from the little country.
So the choice is pretty good—there is a cold mezze and salads, hot mezze and starters, from the oven come the Manoushe (flat pizza-like breads which have toppings of all kinds and they taste yum), rolls, kebabs, grills, and desserts. Even though Zizo is competing with restaurants which offer more than 100 dishes, they prefer to stick to genuine Lebanese food and no mix-match and fusions work for them.
What I liked: The freshness, the creamy hummus, crispy falafel, soft manoushe and shawarma. The less use of oil and the serving portions are good. The serving plates are good too. The vegetables are properly cut and absolutely fresh. The fragrance of rose, hazelnut is very prominent and the ingredients are obviously of good quality to leave the palate asking for more.
What is must try: Fattoush salad with fresh herbs and pomegranate vinaigrette; mezze platter with hummus, pickles; hot mezze platter with lamb pies, cheese rolls; lamb manoushe; zaatar manoushe; chicken shawarma, cheese kunafa and mulberry mocktail.
What makes you sit there: The ambience is cool with good lighting, interesting lampshades and light interiors. There are three sitting areas and all three of them are well designed. There is space for a movie projector, some performances too on the first floor. The walls there are lined with photographs of Malak’s farm in Lebanon and there are books on Lebanese cuisine on sale too. Pickles made in vinegar are for sale too in glass jars. You can even have refills later.
By the way, who is Zizo?
Zizo is a green beetle found in Lebanon which children play with a lot!
Zizo can also help you plan a menu for parties, get-togethers and corporate events. And if you find both the men in the restaurant, you will know how to eat it right too. The best part is that being used to eating with our hands, you feel at home. No forks and knives to hinder the good bite.
Address: K 18-22, Connaught Place, New Delhi, India