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In recent times, Karachiites have started experimenting with their food by expanding their dine out experiences from simply Chinese and desi delectables to Thai, Japanese, Turkish, and Lebanese delicacies. People want more and the new restaurants are opening doors to satiate their food cravings.

One such eatery is Za'atar that is only about three months old but has already become a favourite of many who seek authentic Lebanese flavours. The owner has travelled a lot as a child, particularly to the Middle Eastern regions, including Lebanon. She grew up enjoying original recipes but little did she know that she would find a serious dearth of good Lebanese food when settling in Karachi. It is her love for those spices that inspired her to open up a space to serve food that she has grown up loving and welcome people in search of the same. All the food here is made in-house, even the chilli sauce which is one of the best I have ever had!

Za'atar is a generic name for a family of related Middle Eastern herbs from the genera Origanum (oregano), Calamintha (calamint), Thymus (thyme), and Satureja (savory). A complimentary wrap welcomes all the guests spread with a similar spice mix. The taste is unusual, it’s slightly hot, salty and sour, yet enjoyable. I tried their mixed platter of hot and cold meze which included Felafel (crispy fritters of ground chickpeas and fresh herbs served with sesame dipping sauce), Arayas (pita bread stuffed with spiced kafta blend then toasted), hummus (chickpea purée dressed with olive oil), hummus with Lahem (which are cibes of marinated and fried lamb and pine nuts) and Tabbouleh (a salad of finely chopped fresh herbs, onions and tomatoes in a tangy lemon and olive oil dressing). This was followed by a mixed grilled platter of Shish Tawouk and Kafta Meshwi.

Having the meze for the first time, I went ahead with the most appetising ones first and didn’t realise that the taste of the hot meze might suffer. Nevertheless, the felafel tasted good with and without its sesame sauce. Both the hummus were the creamiest I have had so far and made for a tasty combination with the pita bread served with it. The tabbouleh, too, had a zesty punch to it and instantly refreshed my tastebuds. Kafta is basically ground meat and so, the kafta blend in the arayas was spiced with typical Middle Eastern spices, but the taste failed to stand out. The grilled meat in the grill platter was seasoned very well, and was soft and juicy. It is hard to stop drooling, such was the mouth-watering aroma of the spiced meat. The platter was served along with pita slices spread with a red sauce and seasoned with hot spices that I didn’t enjoy. They definitely look better than they taste. Finally, I ended my meal with a rose flavoured pana cotta decorated with crushed pistachios. The sweetness or the rose essence does not over power your pallete and the light milky dessert is the perfect end to any meal. • 

I have not had much Lebanese food and was skeptical about trying it, as I didn’t know what to expect. But I was able to appreciate and enjoy everything. I can only imagine how much someone who likes this kind of cuisine would love it!

Even with the tables set closely next to one another in a small space, there is a sense of privacy. The seating is comfortable, never mind my wonky table, and the dimly lit place with a candle on each table exudes a sense of calm. 

You will find someone ready to be of service in whichever direction you see; the servers are well-spoken and do all that they can to make your experience as enjoyable as possible. Even with the place being packed with customers, the service is fast.

Even though I always appreciate a good presentation, I’m not the one to feel particularly disappointed if the food is presented in a simple manner. For most part, the presentation was clean but there is not much room to impress when there is loads to fit in one platter.

Value for money
It’s definitely one of those fancy restaurants where you would need to splurge a bit more than you would expect or want to, but Za’atar’s authentic taste and use of fresh ingredients are good things to splurge on every once in a while.