After a particularly frustrating taxi journey, we arrived at Za'atar tired, hungry and anxious. By the time the friendly staff ushered us inside, though, our moods had improved.
The simple but beautiful decor, complete with elegant wooden carvings and probably China's nicest restaurant bathrooms, immediately calmed our nerves (as did a carafe of house red, 80 yuan), and we eagerly turned to the menu.
At the heart of Middle Eastern cuisine lies Mezza (25 yuan each), or appetizers, something Za'atar's Jordanian-Italian owner knows well. We started with the hummus, which, with its creamy texture and generous use of tahina, surpasses the Beijing competition. The kibbeh, a fried meat and bulgar patty, eaten with a thick spread of labaneh bil zeit, a soft cheese, was a heavenly combination never before found in China. For the main course, we tried the shawerma (45 yuan), a chicken wrap that was tasty but might be improved with a spread of hummus. We were a little disappointed with the baklava, which is traditionally drenched in sugar syrup, but were told the recipe had been adapted for the health-conscious Shunyi crowd, who will also enjoy the restaurant's no smoking policy.
Between the excellent food, convenient location next to ISB and extremely considerate management, Shunyi residents are lucky Za'atar has landed in their backyard.
Za'atar (Middle Eastern)
Add: Lake View Place Dragon Bay Villa Huan Road, Building 3, Unit 2
(cityweekend.com.cn May 16,2008)