This weekend my family was invited down to Zaytinya Restaurant located in Al Seef Mall for their newly launched Family Brunch. Al Seef Mall is more of a shopping plaza located off of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Road (Eastern Road) next to Maqta Village. Not completely finished, with the last few shops yet to open, it is a welcome to see a restaurant that not only offers healthy food, but also is great value in this cozy shopping centre.
The only difficulty is that you may miss it, as it located upstairs of Al Seef Mall. When we arrive, the outdoor seating is abandoned due to the warm weather but I am sure that in a few weeks that will be busy. Zaytinya restaurant does not lack style. With a clean cut lines and arabic designs, you can feel the newness of it all as you enter in the front door.
When we first walked in we were greeted by a hostess, then taken to our table by our waiter. Immediately there was a clown blowing up balloons for my children. The staff were super friendly and accommodating (which I half expected as we were their guests). However, during my meal, I noticed that everyone who walked through the door was treated with the same attention.
If you have been in Abu Dhabi for a while when you hear brunch you think lavish buffets, at least 5 different countries represented with their own food station, 20 different desserts, salads galore and unlimited drinks. When you go to Zaytinya for brunch it is just Lebanese food. That is it and that is enough. Don’t worry, there is no shortage of food here. There were about 8 different dishes on the buffet, but also by the kitchen was the warm mezzes; fatayers, swarma, falafel, chips, patata harra, pizza, kibbeh and all the fresh meat ready to be grilled. The dessert station had a small selection of desserts and beautifully arranged fresh fruits. And no family brunch would be complete without the popcorn machine or the cotton candy maker (seriously – I think this must be in the licence).
The concept is simple. Eating together is an important part of family life. Zaytinya aim to create the same atmosphere that you would have at you own home for a family meal. In Lebanese culture, even the most simple meals are shared with many different dishes. Each person eats a bit of everything. All the food is made fresh, and everyone has a great time. This is exactly what you will find at this restaurant.
We started with the cold mezze which included hummus, fatuous, bread, babaghanouj, and a mouhammara that was out of this world. Mouhammara is a dish that is made with sundried tomatoes, walnuts, olive oil and fresh spices. It is a paste and looks a bit like a red hummus. This was one my favourite dishes. I could have easily ate that and left. The spices were just enough to give it a little kick but not burn your mouth out. It was delicious.
Although there is a buffet, the servers will bring dishes of the warm mezze directly to your table. We were immediately onto the next dish. Meanwhile the Executive Chef Ghassan Kattar came out and asked if we wanted mixed grill. We were already starting to fill up and needed a break. He said it would take about 10 minutes which was just enough time to let our food settle a bit. In the meantime, more food was brought to our table. A portion from the whole Lamb Ouzi was brought to our table. Whole Lamb Ouzi is a traditional Lebanese family dish often seen at large gatherings. It is a baked lamb atop of spiced rice. The lamb was tender and the rice was the perfect combination of sweet and savoury.
The mixed grill arrived and we dug in. Beef, chicken tawouk, lamb kofta and chicken kofta. The chicken shish tawouk is prepared differently at Zaytinya. It is marinated in a yogurt marinade before it is grilled which gives it a light flavourful taste rather than a spicy taste when finished. The lamb kofta tasted as expected. The chicken kofta was delicious. I have to be honest, after all my years in the middle east this was the first time I had seen chicken kofta. It was perfect for the little one.
Speaking of which what were the children doing whilst we were eating? So you know how kids don’t like anything except chicken and fries, right? Well there was a kids table with some chicken burgers, hotdogs, and french fries for the little ones. If they didn’t like that there was also a pasta station with a selection of red or white sauce. A big bowl of fresh fruit salad made adding some of their favourite pieces quick and easy. Afterwards a supply of gummy bears, marshmallows, popcorn, and cotton candy kept them happy. When they weren’t playing with their balloons, or having their face painted, they were just hanging out in the small but adequate kids area watching cartoons. Our table was right near the play area, so the children were never out of our sight.
It is embarrassing how much we ate. Everything was delicious. What sort of dishes can you expect? Lamb chops, Chicken Mashbouse (which is actually a local Emirati dish), Dawood Basha (meatballs), Mahashi (stuffed vegetables), Kebbeh Shish Barak (Kebbeh in yogurt soup), Fish Sayadiel (fish and rice). This is all in additional to what has already been mentioned above. Despite being stuffed, I had to finish with some dessert. I skipped the cakes and went straight for the Um Ali and Layli Loubnan. I can eat cake anytime but I don’t make these desserts at home.
If I had to describe this place with one word it would be FRESH. Every single thing tasted so fresh. Each dish had some sort of seasoning that would set it apart from the previous dish, so nothing tasted the same. Each item had its own unique taste. I spoke with the Manager Ghassan Ramadan who told me how there is careful consideration when it comes to picking the ingredients. It is not about quantity but quality. Locally they use fresh herbs that are kept in kitchen (i.e. basil, mint) but for the other vegetables they have carefully selected suppliers direct from Lebanon whose produce are of the highest quality. This dedication to the selection of the food is reflected in the taste.
Would I recommend this place to others? Well I am already planning which visitors to bring here, so yes I would definitely recommend this place. The service was great, the food was delicious, the atmosphere was lively – even the baby started swaying along to the music in her seat. Now here comes the best part – the price: 95 AED per person, 35 AED per child. Say whaaat? That’s right. Now THAT is great value.
Check out Zaytinya Lebanese Restaurant at Al Seef Mall. Let us know what you think.
What: Family Friday Brunch At Zaytina
Where: Upstairs, Al Seef Village Mall
When: Fridays 12:30-4:00pm
Cost: 95 AED per person, 35 AED per child
Contact: 02 447 4489
For location details, please click here for map.