Ziggurat: Going All the Way With Mezze

Appetizers are an important part of a sit-down meal as well as food trips and bar crawls. During a recent night out in the Poblacion area, my companions and I decided to whet our appetites further with a stop at Ziggurat, a cozy casual dining establishment on the corner of Durban Street and Makati Avenue.

During previous visits to Ziggurat, we have always been charmed by its Persian inspired ambience, complete with luxurious low seating arrangements and silver accent pieces. This restaurant’s extensive menu has always been a challenge for us to navigate, owing to the sheer variety of Middle Eastern, Indian, Mediterranean, and African dishes available to adventurous diners. On this particular jaunt we decided to eschew heavier dishes such as curries and kebabs in favor of lighter dishes dubbed as mezzes, a term which originates from the Persian word for ‘taste’ or ‘snack’.

Ziggurat offers its signature mezzes ala carte, or in various mezze combos and platters good for three to five persons. We decided to try a large mezze sampler known as Mezze Forte, a tower of eight different appetizers served with toasted khobiz, a bread that is a little thicker than the usual pita breads utilized for dips.

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Our eight mezzes for the evening were as follows:

-Muttabal: chopped grilled eggplant with tahini

-Muhammara: roasted capsicum and walnut puree

-Qeema: ground beef with eggplants

-Jazar: spiced carrot puree with tahini

-Hummus: garbanzos with tahini

-Taramasalata: a Greek recipe for smoked cod’s roe

-Dukkah: a traditional Egyptian nut dip

-Mahroussa: fava beans with tahini

This combination of sweet and savoury mezzes necessitated our ordering extra khobiz for us to fully appreciate and polish off the entire order. In particular, the spicy mezzes such as Muhammara were a delight to the palate. Some like the Dukkah were a little difficult to eat owing to the crumbly textures, but were otherwise excellent in terms of flavor. My personal favorite had to be the Qeema, as its richness would make the perfect prelude to a hearty meal.

Other mezze combinations such as Mezze Vege (an all vegetable combo) and The Great Pyramid of Mezze are available for larger groups or diners with particular tastes. It may take a good number of visits to fully appreciate Ziggurat’s menu, but these appetizers are a good way to begin a round the world food trip, or a night out.

The Food Score:  4/5: The food at Ziggurat, in particular the appetizers, will suit both finicky diners as well as newbies to less known cuisines. While some menu items may not be available on some evenings, there are more than enough dishes to compensate for any gaps.   

Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5: The staff here are friendly and are quick to inform diners if there are unavailable foods in the menu. They are also more than happy to help patrons navigate the assortment of appetizers, as well as give recommendations.  The ambience is comfortable, casual, and yet gives one the feel of having stepped out of Makati and into another country.

GERD Score: 4/5: The wonderful thing about Middle eastern cuisine is that, even without chili, you get the heat spikes without ruining your stomach. Of course it depends on one’s tastes and heartburn triggers, but overall, Ziggurat is definitely be a good place to just kick back and dine.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5: While some of the more heavily flavoured items may be problematic for sensitive diners, there are still enough dishes to cater to different tastes and conditions. There are also non caffeinated and non alcoholic drinks available at the bar.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5 : While we acknowledge that mezze or other items on Ziggurat’s menu may not be to everyone’s tastes, we still suggest including this restaurant either as the main star of a casual night out, or as a stop in your Poblacion food crawl.

Ziggurat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Cafe Mediterranean (the Alexander the Great Special Part 1)

The Cafe Mediterranean

The Alexander the Great special (Part 1)

Apart from food, one of our shared passions happens to be World History. We decided that for this month we’d pay an ironic tribute to one of the most celebrated conquerors of ancient history, Alexander the Great, by writing about restaurants featuring cuisines from end to end of his empire. Well what better place to start other than the Cafe Mediterranean?

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The Cafe Mediterranean features Greek, French, Italian, and Turkish cuisines, to name a few.  The ensuing variety in the menu is something I have always appreciated, since there are choices for snacks or appetizers, as well as entrees and platters for a small gathering. On our latest visit here, we were joined by some of Lee’s immediate family, thus giving us an opportunity to try out platters and group meal selections. To start off our dinner we chose a sampler plate of four appetizers: kofta (lamb and beef meatballs), tapenade (minced olives with olive oil and capers), labneh (strained yogurt), and foule (fava beans with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice). The kofta in particular was flavourful and juicy, while the tapenade’s sharp tartness was perfect for whetting our appetites for the rest of the meal.

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For our entree, we ordered two different platter sets: the gyro platter with beef, tuna, chicken, and falafel, as well as the kebab platter with chicken, beef, fish, and kofta kebabs.  These platters were also served with sides such as hummus, tabbouleh, and salad. We also ordered biryani rice and couscous to accompany our food instead of the usual pita bread.  The meats were all lightly seasoned, cooked just right to retain their natural flavour and juices. The falafel in particular was a treat; when served warm its crisp outer crust readily gave way to its delicate, slightly sweetish chickpea interior. However the biryani was a little wanting in terms of flavour, but certainly not in quantity. In fact these two platters were more than enough to satisfy our party of 6.

This visit, and our other ventures to Cafe Mediterranean, have never been disappointments. One feature of Cafe Mediterranean is that is a “Restaurant Against Hunger”. Diners can order from a special menu of Syrian dishes, and proceeds from these sales are donated for the welfare of Syrian refugees. This is their way of paying it forward and at the same time, providing excellent food nonetheless.

So would Alexander the Great himself have partaken of this sort of meal (or at least its precursors?) Heaven only knows, but certainly food this good is worth traversing an empire for.

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The Food Score:  4.5/5. The slight problem with the biryani aside, the food here was filling and very satisfying in terms of taste and quality. The serving sizes are reasonable, and their drinks selection (especially the yogurt drink lassi) is a treat.

Ambiance/Service Score:   3.5/5. Unfortunately the service, at least in this particular branch, is not attentive. It took a while for us to call the attention of the staff if we needed something. The ambiance of this restaurant is relaxed and casual, though it can only go so far given its location in a busy mall.

GERD Score: 4.5/5. Thankfully, the place has plenty of selections for people who have heartburn. Most of the dishes here are grilled, not fried which is a plus. However, the one thing everyone has to note is that the quantity of food per order can be a bit much for a single person, so to be on the safe side, share and just add one extra order of bread.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5. Spices and some flavourings used in the dishes here may trigger some sensitive diners. Some of the dishes use preserved meats (such as the pizza) so it may be best to give these a pass or at least some thought before ordering.
Team Glasses Score: 4/5. If one is looking for authenticity, this may not be the place to go. However for us, since we just want some good Mediterranean themed food to share, this is definitely one location we are returning to.

The Cafe Mediterranean Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato