Saturday, January 21, 2012

Delicious Shakshouka brunch at Zaatar

Zaatar Mediterranean Hummus Bar on Urbanspoon
EDIT: Jan-24th -- Price correction to $8.90 after tax.

I was on the Food Bloggers Food Cart Crawl when we walked by Zaatar Mediterranean Hummus Bar on Davie. The restaurant name has hummus all over it, but what caught my eye was the picture of Shakshouka on their street sign. It looked YUM and I knew I had to try it. It tasted... totally not what I expected.

The restaurant has been open for about 7 months. The owner is Israeli, but it's not a "family restaurant" per se. On this Saturday morning, the cashier was Ukrainian and the chef was French. Not the best start if you're looking for authenticity, but hey, as long as the chef can serve out delicious food, I won't complain.
The website is, sadly, rubbish. Zaatar even points to Urbanspoon for their menu (Huh?).

You may wonder why I went to a hummus bar but didn't order any hummus. I'm wondering that myself.

Anyway, if you don't know what it is, shakshouka is "a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, often spiced with cumin". Like ratatouille, it looks like a dish made of thrown-together leftovers from mass cooking. ("Leftover onion? Yup, throw it in!"). Conceptually it looks pretty easy.

At Zaatar, you get it in a metal dish about 6" in diameter and 1" deep. It comes with a small side of sour cream with some spice Labaneh yogurt cheese dip with zaatar and sumac spice on top, and two thick pitas. One fork, no spoon. No water or napkin either at this pay-at-the-counter place. The cashier is friendly enough, but this isn't a "restaurant" where you are waited on per se and where you pay tips.

The shakshouka looks quite soupy, but there's a good amount of onion in there to give it a stew-like consistency. That, and if you mush up the two eggs on top, you get a nice thickness to it.
I can't say I knew what to do with the sour cream. If you put it in the stew, it just disappeared. The stew itself had just enough spice for a kick, but nothing that is really "spicy" hot per se. And they didn't ask me just how spicy I wanted it. You might want to do that up front if you really need that burning-tongue sensation to be happy.

From the dark reddish tomato look of it, one might expect something on the sour side, like spaghetti sauce. But surprise surprise, it is actually _sweet_.

Two pitas (and no spoon!) doesn't look like enough, but it really is. Treat the dish like a stew and save about a half-pita to wipe the pan of every last bit of deliciousness.

At $8.90 after tax (tip not required), shakshouka is a fairly nice price for a nice breakfast or brunch, plus you can just take any remaining pita away with you.


  1. I Have been there to and it is delicious.
    But might I correct you, the side dish is not sour cream, It is Labaneh yogurt cheese dip with zaatar and sumac spice on top.
    Just for future reference in case anyone else is wondering what the side dish is.

  2. @Anonymous - Thank you for the info!