Zeitoun’s culinary journey, which began two years ago with Mediterranean cuisine, has fused its path with Omani cuisine to usher in the New Year with a menu crafted by Oman’s celebrity chef Issa Al Lamki
‘Harees is the new ‘cheese’’ quipped Chef Issa Al Lamki, as he posed for photographs at the launch of the new menu of Zeitoun, hinting, in his own special way, that Oman’s traditional and innovative dishes will set the mood and the tempo for diners at the popular restaurant.
Having explored the changing culinary temperaments of diners in the capital, Zeitoun has adopted a versatile gastronomic approach, one that goes beyond its tried and tested Mediterranean fare. While the Mediterranean menu catered to fine diners in the capital and created a niche in the foodie horizon, it was the growing desire of the management to go beyond the expectations of diners, with diversity in style, presentation and even cuisine, that has given Zeitoun its new flavours.
On the agenda of Zeitoun’s new culinary expressions are buffets and set menus, cooking classes and contests, in addition to its ongoing full-fledged outdoor catering facility. While the cooking classes will be conducted under the tutelage of Chef Issa, the contests will be in held in partnership with companies dealing in food products. The weekend buffets will reflect Zeitoun’s new avatar as a casual restaurant, catering to diverse palates, including those with refined and cultivated tastes. Conscious effort has been made to feature an eclectic menu of international and local dishes that are presented in eye-catching displays. Distinct flavours of each dish create a smorgasbord of aromas, capturing the essence of spices and condiments.
Zeitoun, which occupies a prime place at the upmarket Al Rawda Boulevard on Seeb Street, has, in a short span of time, earned merit as a popular suburban diner, one that has been enhanced by the changing landscape of the area, with several hotels coming up in the vicinity. Spread over two levels, Zeitoun is a feast for all the senses. While the entrance on the ground floor leads to a striking open kitchen, accentuated rather starkly by stained glass décor elements, the top section is reminiscent of a Middle Eastern scene, captured from the days of yore, when life was relaxed and the milieu was dreamy. Babbling little fountains complement the susurration of the water wall in the courtyard, which is fitted with outdoor seating to add to the ambience of this sprawling restaurant.
As Husain Abdul Fattah Ghulam Al Lawati, Group CEO of Al Balushi Group to which the Zeitoun brand belongs, stated at the launch of the new menu, the concept of Zeitoun requires a rooftop presence. For, the idea is to appease all the senses while indulging the guests in an ambience that is both lavish as well as homely. With the incorporation of an Omani themed menu, Zeitoun’s culinary grandeur is set to shine.
According to Al Lawati, the menu change was initiated owing to two key observations. “One was the realisation that North Mediterranean dishes did not resonate very well with our local target audience. Besides, the absence of high-end restaurants specialising in local Omani cuisine presented an opportunity for us to reposition Zeitoun to meet this market need.”
With Chef Issa crafting the new menu to incorporate the indulgent taste of spices from neighbouring India, the flavours captured in every dish are rich and scrumptious. Although the theme is predominantly Omani, there is a palpable difference in the dishes presented, as the Chef has coupled his culinary genius with his creative flair to whip up dishes that are pleasing to the eye and moreish to the palate.
The new menu is an invitation to celebrate Oman on a platter. A wide selection of soups, salads, breads and grilled dishes are Omani in style and flavour. The buffet table featuring starters and salads is a delight for even a fastidious diner. Alongside the usual hummous, tabouleh and Baba Ganoush are creative little presentations that go by the name of ‘beetroot hummous’ and ‘celery hummous’. There is also tabouleh with parsley and kiwi to add to the novelty of the menu. Harees, the typical Arabic dish, is also presented in new culinary avatars, like the soup with the wheat in its unbroken state.
The menu also features dishes inspired by the Gulf and Middle Eastern cuisine, with the main hinting at Indian and Italian touches in some of the dishes. On the Omani side, the main course includes braised lamb served shuwa style and camel meat braised with Omani spices, onions and tomato; Omani mashakik featuring lamb chops, chicken, prawns and mixed vegetables served with Omani madrouba. But for those with a heavy sweet tooth, it is the extensive dessert section that is a lure with typical Omani dishes vying for space with the likes of crème brulees and cheesecakes.
Chef Issa has several culinary aces up his sleeve and a visit to Zeitoun is required to relish some of the best from Oman.
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