Running a new restaurant in Karachi tends to be more than a half-time job, and yet Samyra aka Sammy doesn’t have the lethargy and mechanical quality of a kitchen run by remote control. Her kitchen has her energy. Her runs to the kitchen are frequent and her check on her guests is constant. That is how this authentic Lebanese eatery has made it big in a very short span of time. Her tactics — find superior ingredients and bring consistent and authentic recipes to bear on them.
In her words, “Nothing in our kitchen comes canned or bottled. Meat isn’t kept frozen, rather delivered fresh daily.” This I believe is one piece of statement that justifies the sheer freshness though simplicity of the food served at Zaatar. Each and every entry bursts with freshness and individual flavor.
On the night I popped by, the restaurant served to a full house. We started off with their Hot and Cold Mezze menu. The freshness of Moutabal (a smoky paste of aubergine, blended with sesame, lemon and garlic) and Fattoush (a chunky salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions tossed in lemon and sumac dressing) complemented the traditional middle-eastern Falafels (crispy chickpea fritters served with a sesame dip). Arayes (charcoal toasted pita stuffed with lamb kafta) was joyous with a well cooked lamb flavor. Jawaneh (chargrilled chicken wings with lemon, garlic and coriander sauce) tasted so much better than they sound that I spoke about them for weeks. I think the magic was in the amazing house sauce smothered over them. The finger licking Batata Harra (crisp potato cubes, tossed with chillies, lemon and coriander) also burst with power packed flavor.
Our main was their Mixed Grill Platter which had an assortment of Shish Tawouk, Kafta Meshwi and Lahem Meshwi served with bread basket, shatta sauces and home made pickles. All three types of meat on the platter were plump and beautifully cooked. Again the freshness of the food struck the palette and it became clear why this eatery is going to stand out from the commercial ones – freshly sourced meat and groceries and a vigilant check on recipes.
Designed to be comfortable and spacious, Sammy put her good aesthetics to use when it comes to the interior of the restaurant. Samyra Rashid started the restaurant in March this year in association with her silent partner Arif Memon. A company called 7 Chefs is assisting them with restaurant management. An Economist by education, she has practiced journalism and documentary film making. She has also enjoyed a prolific career in fashion design. Having had a penchant for Lebanese cuisine, (living in Saudi Arabia and travelling between Egypt and Saudi Arabia in her young years), Sammy was fond of cooking authentic recipes and entertaining friends. Thus, Zaatar maintains that perfect fresh, home-cooked yet professional quality of food.
As I finish writing this review, well after a few weeks of enjoying my dinner at Zaatar, I feel a sudden urge to go back and try the food all over again.
Do try Zaatar, I’m sure, you’ll keep going back too!.
Zaatar: Khy-e-Nishat between Muhafiz and Bukhari, DHA VI, Karachi.