Lakeview's Zachi features food of Jerusalem
November 10, 2012 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- The lentil soup is fine, and the hummus and baba gannoush - while not the best in the city, are certainly respectable, especially when you scoop them up with the homemade za'taar-laced pita chips. But the Middle Eastern food at Zachi, near the corner of Belmont and Southport, aspires to be more than cliché... because it's rooted in very personal recipes.
"Zachi means 'tasty' in an old, very old Arabic language," said Majid Mustafa, owner of Zachi. "It's more about Jerusalem taste. Especially because my chef was a chef in Israel for 12 years so we figured we'd bring that here."
The falafel - made from chickpeas, like most Lebanese recipes - is solid. But their "falafel supreme" is an entirely different kind of sandwich wrap. Not only is it layered with French fries and fried eggplant, but there's also the issue of crunchy, briny homemade pickled turnips, carrots and cauliflower, not to mention the sesame-heavy tahini and fiery hot sauce.
Another unique touch: mini "bites" versions of the regular pita sandwiches. Fillings include falafel, shawarma - such as freshly-sliced chicken or lamb - plus labneh, a tart yogurt version with vegetables.
"When I go to a restaurant, I want to try more than one sandwich, so the best way to do it, I came up with the bites," he said.
Mustafa also makes some homemade pies, containing spinach, beef or that za'taar spice blend.. he also makes his own baklava. But he hangs his hat on his assortment of pickles, which give crunch and complexity to almost any item on the menu.
"We do our own pickles so we put like three, four kind of pickles in that sandwich. I'm sure nobody else in Chicago does that," said Mustafa.
So think of these bites as a Middle Eastern sampler, if you will. Just enough for a little snack; aren't they cute? And if you like pickles, be sure to pick up a couple of the homemade versions here, they are addictive.
They also offer a sampler platter for just seven bucks, which features two of those mini-bite sandwiches.
1406 W. Belmont Ave.
restaurants, steve dolinsky
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