The Middle East meets the Mediterranean at stunning Fortitude Valley arrival ZA ZA TA
If you ask us, cultural collisions produce some of the most amazing culinary experiences. The best of these amalgamations do more than just cross-pollinate flavours – they also combine histories and traditions of each region, re-contextualising experiences and creating a harmonious blend of the best of each half. ZA ZA TA is one such glorious bonding. The anticipated restaurant officially opens today, Tuesday August 6, and seeks to plate up a soulful union of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines with a dynamic that showcases time-forged techniques and curious ingredient pairings.
Brisbane’s recent boutique hotel boom has not only yielded a phenomenal array of accomodation spots, but also a selection of top-notch eateries that are standing out in their own right. Under one year on from the official launch of Ovolo The Valley, the inner-city hotel has unveiled its tremendous on-site bar and eatery ZA ZA TA – an eclectically decorated bar and kitchen inspired by Tel Aviv’s vibrant culinary scene. The venue showcases a union of ideas and tastes between Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking, but flimsy flashy fusion this is not – ZA ZA TA’s considered menu is inspired by timeless mother recipes, each prepared with a mix of time-intensive cooking techniques that breathe new life into these storied dishes. Israeli-born executive chef Roy Ner (ex-Nour and Aria Sydney) was recruited to oversee the concept, and jumped at the chance to work on a project and disconnect from the Sydney scene for a while. When it came to finding a capable head chef to help craft the culinary offering, Roy was pointed in the direction of Dario Manca (ex-Pilu at Freshwater), an accomplished chef who has a wealth of knowledge at his disposal courtesy of his own Italian heritage. Self-described as a ‘pair of nutcases’, Roy and Dario gelled quickly thanks to a shared vision of ZA ZA TA’s mission statement – a restaurant that serves dishes inspired by millennia-old regional recipes, relating the soul, reason and heritage behind each before reinterpreting them as remarkable and familiar dishes served as an informal shared-style dining experience.
On first inspection, ZA ZA TA might be in the running for most eye-catching newcomer this year. The 242-seater venue’s look – conceptualised by award-winning interior designers Luchetti Krelle – is finely textured from the largest statement pieces down to the small details. ZA ZA TA’s aesthetic is described as an amalgam between a Victorian-era conservatory and a sprawling Queenslander, a meeting of quirky locality and eclectic trans-Atlantic flair. Guests enter at the bar and are greeted immediately with warmth and colour. From there, the restaurant is broken up into sections, each imbued with a unique purpose. The Parlour is the main bar area, where diners and night owls can sip on crafted libations surrounded by aesthetic touches inspired by a 1940s cocktail armoire. Next to the bar is The Harem, a plush parlour-style sitting room with rattan seating and polished nickel tables where diners can decamp for casual shared plates or drinks. Hidden behind reclaimed lead light doors is low-key lounge space The Library, which is adorned in Persian-patterned Lacroix carpet, colourful cushions and eclectic furnishings. Located in front of the open kitchen is the The Dining Room and Kitchen Pantry, where one will find a shared chef’s table flanked by pantry walls boasting an array of colourful produce and fermenting jars. Diners perched here will be given front-row seats for the kitchen action, including the large beech wood oven which pumps out serves of traditional pita bread. The Conservatory is the spot where most of ZA ZA TA’s dining takes place. This section boasts a steel-and-glass facade, tessellated tile floor, a ceiling with painted trellis panelling and wrought-iron furniture with velvet upholsteries. Still to be unveiled is The Games Room and The Grand Hall – private dining spaces separated by an operable wall and adorned with blue velvet drapes and bespoke panelled doors.
The food and drink
Much like the restaurant’s opulent interiors, ZA ZA TA’s kitchen also revels in the finer details. Chefs Roy and Dario are employing a host of cooking techniques to bring the best out of the Queensland produce at their disposal, with fermenting, salting, smoking, slow-cooking, and ageing processes utilised across the eatery’s brunch and dinner menus. ZA ZA TA’s brunch menu boasts morsels such as wood-fired breakfast manoush and khachapuri (forms of leavened flat bread) with toppings (roast bacon, Cypriot haloumi, labneh and za’atar, smoked garlic), dishes from the kitchen (charcoal ocean trout, shakshuka, poached lobster) and a grazing table option. The main menu is divided into sections – raw and cured bites, nibbles, pickles and snacks, small starters and larger plates, not to mention a significant offering of vegetarian dishes. Roy and Dario have narrowed down hundreds of celebrated recipes from various regions of the Middle East for the kitchen’s debut menu, with stand-out options including Yemenite butter bread with ox heart-tomato and zhug chilli, fried goats-cheese pretzel with house-made lamb bacon and yolk aioli, Fremantle octopus with camel-hump ‘Nduja, spiced Maremma duck breast with black garlic and foie cream, crispy Kaddafi snapper, whipped hummus with abalone mushroom shawarma, slow-cooked maghrebi vegetables and felafel chips with tahini aioli. The nibbles selection is still available post 11:00 pm, perfect for grazing with a beverage in hand. Speaking of drinks, ZA ZA TA’s bar (overseen by bar manager Braeden Hargreaves) boasts a host of cold-pressed craft cocktails (made using Middle Eastern spices and garnished with locally-sourced citrus fruits and botanicals), plantation rums, Mediterranean-style gin and tonics, small-batch Tel Aviv-inspired wines from Harkham Wines (plus an impressive list of vino from Australia and beyond), and zero-proof drinks such as hibiscus rose tea and limonana.
ZA ZA TA officially opens today, Tuesday August 6. For contact details and opening hours, click on over to the Stumble Guide.
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