Zahrabel, the newly opened Lebanese fine dining restaurant in Wanchai, has a heart brimming with love and generosity, a soul that is authentic and flavourful and a clear intent of presenting the best of Lebanese food.
Launched by the second generation of the family which is accredited with pioneering Lebanese cuisine in Hong Kong by their erstwhile outfit, Zahra Lebanese Restaurant, Zahrabel is one of the rare, non commercial enterprises you would come across in Hong Kong.
To begin with, the restaurant is open for business for only 5 days a week – Tuesdays through Saturdays, 7 pm onwards. In Hong Kong, where one is used to feeling rushed to eat, drink and empty the table quickly for the next set of guests to be seated, Zahrabel reverses the trend. It encourages the guests to linger longer, savouring the food, the wine and the conversations that flow with it. The restaurant follows no table rotation policy where a table reserved for guests is theirs for the whole evening. An endearing hand written placard is placed on your table marking your turf.
Also, this is a no walk-ins restaurant. The guests need to reserve the table in advance as Zahrabel follows responsible dining approach by minimizing wastage and sourcing fresh and local ingredients. They offer two set dinner options, a full set of 10 dishes and a lighter set of 6 dishes, comprising traditional Lebanese cold and hot mezze. True to the spirit of communal dining and keeping the wastage at tables low, guests can share the dinner sets and are not obliged to order a set individually.
We started with some Lebanese 961 Pale Ale beer. Inspired from Lebanese spice market, this one is infused with subtle spices and herbs and so easily downable.
Then, came the first portion of our dinner set comprising ten dishes . The delish dips – Hummus, Babaganouj were nothing short of perfect, reminiscent of some of the best dips I have tasted in local restaurants at Pamukkale or Istanbul.
But, the star dip has to be the house special, Jos Mahrouse. This is a fiery dip made with Mediterranean spicy nuts.
The ‘Chicken Elmina’, a dish with juicy pieces of chicken soaked in cool mint sauce was simply mouth watering.
Lamb Trablous, gently flavoured with traditional spices and spring onion instantly melted in the mouth with hardly any chew.
Fatoush took the gastronomic pleasure to another level by breaking the rich flavours of the chicken and lamb. Crispy lettuce, onions and croutons flavored in a fruity zumac based dressing was a perfect accompaniment.
Felafel, traditional Middle Eastern dish, which has made inroads to the everyday fast food with McDonalds McFelafel sandwiches or the falafel stuffed pita pockets sold as street food in many parts of the world, hits a perfect note in flavor and texture at Zahra.
Kousa b’il Laban is an unusual dish again. Stuffed zucchini with minty yogurt base.
One can taste the freshness of ingredients in Tabouleh, the popular Lebanese salad. Lemon based dressing pronounces the flavours rather than dousing them.
The presence of numerous vegetarian dishes on the menu strikes you. It is common to associate Lebanese food to a cuisine with a non vegetarian bias but that is not exactly the case. Almost two thirds of the menu at Zahra is vegetarian and we are informed by the charismatic owner, Nysreen, that authentic Lebanese food lays a whole lot of emphasis on salads and veggies. While in many fine dining restaurants, vegetarians are made to feel like second class citizens, Zahrabel is nothing short of a pampering session for them.
And then, came the Baklava. I am a fan of this Middle Eastern dessert and do not even try to resist this sinful delight. Zahrabel keeps it well balanced hitting a perfect home run on sweetness, taste and indulgence.
Pay a visit for its freshly baked Pitas, drop in for some home-brewed mint tea, stop by for some warm Lebanese hospitality or for that intimate and relaxed dining experience. An evening at Zahrabel is sure to leave you with a lingering afterglow. A dinner set of 6 dishes would set you back by HK$ 380 per head and set of 10 dishes by HK$ 520 per head. The Dinner set included dessert and tea or coffee. Drinks are priced at par with standard Hong Kong pricing with entry price of HK$ 70 for a glass of wine.
Zahrabel | 25/F, 235-239 Hennessy Road Wan Chai, Tel: +852 5503-9181.