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.
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.