Last night we strolled down to Nopa, only to find it packed with a 1 hour wait. We walked another half block down to the new Ziryab, a Mediterranean Middle Eastern restaurant.
Ziryab was also packed, but there was an empty table waiting for us and the smell of grilling meats over their indoor hardwood charcoal grill was enticing.
The menu is a pretty standard hummus, dolmas, schawerma, kefti kabob menu with a few highlights. One item we tried that I havent seen before was stuffed eggplant, which turned out to be green unripe eggplants cured like green olives with plenty of salt. They were a bit salty on their own but were perfect cut in pieces and mixed into my couscous and my boyfriends veal and lamb wrap.
Prices were pretty reasonable, with the most expensive thing on the menu being a $19 green peppercorn filet mignon, standing out like a sore thumb as the safe selection for the unadventurous souls.
The wine list was short, affordable, and unusual. It looks like one of the owners enjoys wine and put some of their favorite cheap wines together as a list, although I cant vouch for any of the wines we saw. Beer on tap included Sierra Nevada, Fat Tire, Blue Moon, and something else, along with a few Belgian Beers in bottles. We tried the Blue Moon, which we havent seen before. It was a lighter beer, but with more substance than a Budweiser. It also seemed to have some subtle aromatics, perhaps rose buds.
Hookas are also available for those so inclined, although we didnt see anyone smoking them last night.
The space itself is nice, definitely a step up from places like Amira or Ken Zaman that ostensibly offer the same type of menu.
In terms of opening week woes, they definitely have a few although they were pretty minor. The food seemed to be made of good ingredients, but we kept reaching for salt or pepper. It would be great if they put out little dishes of harissa. Im sure once the kitchen hits its stride theyll have more time to get seasoning balance in line. Service was extremely harried, with one professional waitress, and two older men who had the look of owners or uncles related to the operation who were still getting used to the computerized ordering system. They never mentioned wine or hookas as it seemed they had all they could handle just juggling food and beer for the full house.
Its exciting to have so many new restaurants in the neighborhood, since two years ago it was a culinary waste land (Little Star Pizza, Green Chile Café, Papalotes new location, Nopa, and now Ziryab are all recent additions).