Monday, April 14, 2008

Ziggurat Cuisine Restaurant

As far as I know, Ziggurat Cuisine Restaurant is the only place in Metro Manila that serves African cuisine. While it also serves Indian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern food, which we can find in various other restos, it is African food that lured my me to Ziggurat.

First, a few notes about the location. The restaurant is located on the corner of Euphrates and Tigris streets in Makati, which I'm sure figured in the owner's calculus before he opened the restaurant. It is not exactly the easiest place to find, especially if you're not used to Makati's latest permutation of one-way streets. I actually got flagged down by Makati's finest on my way there; luckily I got off with a friendly reminder. I can also see parking being hell during peak hours-- my Dear and I went there on a Sunday, which was a pretty slow day for the restaurant, and there was only one parking slot available.

The decor is predominantly Turkish/Middle Eastern-- think carpets, gold thread, and hookahs-- which can either be tacky or exotic depending on your taste. Although there are a few high chairs and tables, most of the seating is on the floor with lots of throw pillows and carpets to keep you comfortable. Indoor lighting is quite dim, which might be nice for the after-work evening crowd.

Now on to the food:

Moussaka (P150) with Arabian Khobiz (P10/piece)-- The moussaka was very good and flavourful, equal in flavour to the one from Arya Persian Restaurant but not in presentation. I had the impression that they make a big batch early in the day then just reheat portions as people order. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as food like moussaka actually get better when you reheat them (stronger flavours). Khobiz, the classic Arabian flatbread, is basically pita bread. The bread with the moussaka can easily serve as an good-sized appetiser for two or a hearty snack for one.

Algerian Grilled Vegetable Cousous (P250)-- While Ziggurat has around 20 rice dishes, we opted for the Maghribi staple, couscous. It was a very good decision, as the couscous with vegetables was a meal in itself. I've had couscous only a few times before, and I have to say this was among the better tasting ones. The grilled vegetables, which they chopped and mixed into the dish, added a sweet and savoury taste to the bland couscous. As you can see in the picture, they made no effort towards presentation, which to some people might matter, but to me was more than made up for by the taste.

Ethiopian Chicken We't (P375)-- If you watched NBC during the mid 90s, you might remember this filler segment they called World in a Stew. One of the dishes they featured was a chicken stew from Ethiopia. This is that dish. Chicken we't (or doro we't) is a stew of chicken cooked in butter and berbere spices, served on injera bread with hard-boiled eggs and cottage cheese. Ziggurat's version of this dish was mildly spicy and a bit pungent-- I liked it but it wasn't exactly every day fare for my Filipino taste buds. The bland eggs and cheese were a good complement to the we't, cutting through the strong flavour of the berbere spices and butter. The injera bread, where it was dry, was also a good complement to the dish; however, the butter-based sauce soaked most of it that it was no longer nice to eat. Next time I order this dish I'll ask them to serve the bread on the side.

Moroccan Mint Tea (P75) and Ziggurat Iced Tea (P60)-- Nothing really spectacular here, just mint tea in a pot and iced tea. Next time I'll try their lassi, an Indian yogurt-based drink.

Dessert Trio A (P250)-- A trio of (from the top) shir berenj (Persian rice pudding), kulfi (Indian frozen milk dessert) and mihallabiya (Egyptian milk pudding). The shir berenj was a milky rice pudding with a hint of rose water, similar in texture to a thick rice guinataan. The kulfi was basically hard ice cream, like a very sweet rum-raisin ice cream. The mihallabiya, which for me topped the trio, had the texture of soft bilo-bilo made from sticky rice but flavoured with yogurt and rose water.

Ziggurat, which has been around for a few years, was a very good discovery for me. It impressively offers a very diverse and ambitious menu of dishes, and does a decent job of them. While I wouldn't say that it serves the best dish X or the perfect dish Y, I think it does a pretty good version of those dishes. Very much worth the trip (and a return trip) if you're getting tired of the usual East/Southeast Asian, Italian, or American fare we often find in the city. Although we spent around P650/person during our visit, one can have a hearty meal in Ziggurat for around P450; their shawarmas even go for less than P200 if I remember correctly. Now for the scores (in case you missed it, see the explanation here):

Quality = 7.5
Size = 7.0
Taste = 8.0
Ambience = 6.0
Service = 7.0
Value = P677.64
Price = P450
Sulit Rating = 1.51 > 1

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