Friday, March 17, 2006

March is Middle Eastern Month!

Welcome to the Philippine's Ultimate Guide to Restaurants!

Here, we will try to review all restaurants in and around the metro. From the ones offering exotic and delightful cuisines that will satisfy not only the adventurous palate but will also entice the curious traveler’s taste buds.

And to start with, we will devote the entire month of March only to restaurants offering Middle Eastern Cuisines.

Join me, as I try to investigate, explore and experience all the spicy gastronomic treats the Middle Eastern Cuisines restaurants has to offer...

Brief background on Middle Eastern Cuisines

History recounts the Middle East as a land of acroamatic contrasts -- biblical stories, land of plenty and poverty, tribal wars and the prophets of peace, and also a place of conflict and eternal bliss. Though the land is considered as a battleground today, Middle Easteners can still find common ground at the dinner table, where their conflicts find resolution and harmonious co-existence. Nowadays, the Mid-East is known worldwide for their healthful foods.

The main use of grains, fruits, vegetables and seafoods in their common dishes has propelled the Middle Eastern diet into the culinary center stage.

The cradle of civilization, known to the modern world as Mesopotamia, the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, is also the birthplace of agriculture 12,000 years ago. And since then, food and beverage have never seemed far from anyone's mind.

Even the English word "gourmet" meaning lover of finbe food, derived its origin from the Farsi word for stew: Ghormeh.

The Middle East has been a marketplace, cultural crossroads as well as a geographical focal point of the Euro-Asian-African world, and therefore serving as a hub of cookbook exchange where travelers and merchants trade spices, citrus and rice. The Persians, who occupied the land of modem day Iran, laid the foundation for Mid-East cuisine when they incorporated rice, poultry and fruits into their diets. Tribal wars brought the portable foods of Arab warriors--figs, dates and nuts--to conquered lands. Mix in spices from India and beyond, pastries from the Turks, okra from Africa, and various contributions from Slays, Mongols, and Moors and you begin to see the melting pot nature of the cuisine of the Middle East.

Experience with an Arabian

It was a busy day in Makati some two years ago. An Arabian asked me if I can be interviewed for a potential overseas stint as an office staff. Confident with my exposure in offices for quite some time, I agreed.

This Arabian was medium-built, almost my height. In fact, he's almost Filipino because just like me he's got thick eyebrows & flirting eyelashes. And if the saying 'one can measure an Arab's weapon by the size of his tobacco' is true and I was gay, I could have locked that room filled with scent so romantic for two people floating on cloud of smoke. For reason I still couldn't figure out until now (I suspect it was our flickering eyes), I was hired.

A fulfilling experience that I started exploring everything Arabian.

Food was the only intriguing thing that brings me back always to this event I learned to describe as delicious. The other night, my friends treated me to some finest restaurants after a successful gig of the small time show we produced.

What surprised me was this resto at the heart of Makati named Ziggurat Cuisine. I didn't know it existed because it's spot seemed secluded. But they say they've been in operation for couple of years already. Friends thought I didn't like that place much as I was devouring their food contemplatively. They didn't have any idea it was another intimacy for me.

I first saw this resturant being featured on F! and a couple of Magazines. But it was only yesterday that I got the chance to experience what they have instore for us. We ordered for the ultimate Hanging Garden of Ke-Babylon, offering six different kinds of kebabs, served with grilled vegetables, eight khobiz (arabian bread) pieces and condiments, baklavas, beef we't, lamb curry and some soothing lassis.

- The kebabs are all nice, moist and tender. Uniquely made because of it's distinctive flavor. I must say, I like their version than that of Husseins and Jerusalem which are a few blocks away from Ziggurat.

- They are offering flavored and plain lassi -- traditional yoghurt drink that you may have plain or sweet. I prefer the fruity lassi, which is a flavored variety. I just hope they serve their lassis on tall glasses because it's a bit pricey.

- The grilled vegetables were all great! You can taste the freshness of the zucchini, tomato and onions. I was never a fan of vegetables but that was before I tried Ziggurat's grilled vegies.

- The lamb curry is simply delicious, spicy and not to mention... pungent. Cooked the way they should be.

- I specially loved the beef we't. An ethiopian spicy meat stew seasoned with spicy berbere paste and spiced butter.

- I just can't get enought of the baklava. It's to die for!

- I suggest you wear your most comfortable clothes when going to this restaurant because they only have a couple of normal-sized tables inside. You may need to sit down on pillows, cross legged around some low tables.

- They also have a covered mezzanine for all those lovers who would like to do something naughty after a nice meal from Ziggurat. Just a suggestion... ;)

- The restaurant is really hard to find specially when you are not familiar with the streets of Makati. It is located at the corner of Euphrates and Tigris Streets, and up to now I am unsure if this is just serendipity, or if the owners of Ziggurat installed the streetsign for more mid-east creed... Much better if you call them first to ask for some directions at (+632) 897.51.79. You may also visit their website for more information on their menu - http://www.zigguratcuisine.com.