Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Zaytoon Kabob Bistro - North Phoenix

Wow, I didn't realize it's been so long since I posted. Things have been quite hectic. We moved to a new house in February, so January was full of searching, applying, and moving prep. We're finally mostly all settled.

Some of the first mail we got at our new place was a ValuPak of coupons. One was for a local, fairly new Middle Eastern place called Zaytoon Kabob Bistro. They are located in one of the small strip malls on the southwest corner of Greenway and Tatum. Since we moved farther from the large cluster of restaurants at 7th St/Bell, we've been looking for new places that are closer to home.

Zaytoon is a five month old restaurant. You order at the counter and they bring your food out to you. As the name implies, most of their menu is kabobs, either in wraps or entree form. Ground beef, chicken, shrimp, lamb, veggie, and a few others. They also have daily specials. On my first visit, the friendly and helpful girl at the register explained that the owner is Iranian and the specials are all Iranian specialties. They are unique on the menu and not just discounted regular items. I think that's a great idea.

On my first visit, I got the gyro wrap to go, along with an order of hummus. These are my usual measuring sticks for a new Middle Eastern restaurant. The gyro meat is made in-house. The gyros wrap was huge. A large quantity of gyro meat (beef and lamb), along with veggies and sauce, all wrapped in a fresh, house-made tandoori bread. It was very good. The hummus was excellent. There was an added flavor I couldn't identify, but it was obviously made in-house as well. This was evidenced by a few whole or nearly whole chickpeas that escaped processing. Tara and I ranked this as our second favorite hummus after Z's Greek on Thomas near 40th Street.

On my second take-out visit, I got the chicken kabob entree (marinated boneless chicken, breast or thigh), which came with basmati rice and 1/2 a piece of tandoori bread. The chicken was also very good, with a nice marinated flavor. It came with a massive side of rice, easily enough for two or three people. The rice was OK. It was basic basmati rice, nothing special. For that, you head to Eden's Grill just down Tatum at Thunderbird. Their rice is amazing, but a different review.

Tonight, Tara didn't feel like cooking and suggested we go to Zaytoon, as she hadn't tried it yet outside of the hummus. Surprisingly, they were nearly packed on a Wednesday night. They have around 15 tables and most were taken. A huge group was ordering at the register when we arrived, but the owner let his son deal with them and took our order at the other end of the counter. He was incredibly friendly and helpful. Tara got the ground beef kabobs (ground beef mixed with onions and Zaytoon seasonings). I got the daily special: Eggplant Stew (A stew of beef, yellow split peas, and eggplant in a saffron tomato sauce, served with steamed basmati rice.
We also got a hummus appetizer with two extra pieces of tandoori bread. The owner even asked the kitchen to do our order in front of the large group so we wouldn't have to wait for twelve dishes to be done before ours.

The hummus arrived before I even made my way to the table after getting my drink. I let the extremely hot bread cool before dug in, but Tara didn't way as she has a higher pain threshold. The hummus was still as good as we remembered. It was a very large portion and we found we couldn't stop eating it. As we did, we noticed the large group started to get their meals. That was fine, as they were there before us and we had a ton of hummus to keep us very happy.

After about half of the large group had their meals, our came out. Immediately after we got them, the owner came out and apologized for our meals taking longer than normal. This caught us by surprise as it didn't seem to take long at all. We assured him that we didn't even notice and were just finishing the hummus in any case. Sometimes you can't beat the service at a Mom and Pop place.

Tara's ground beef kabobs were excellent. She even went so far as to say there were better than the ones she used to get when we frequented Shish Kabab House in Glendale. High praise indeed.

My stew was very good, although I'm not sure I'd get it again. The saffron tomato sauce had a very interesting flavor, and I'm sure people love it, but it was right on the border of my tastes. I didn't DISlike it, but I'm not sure it's something I'd order again. What I did love is that it DID have a distinct flavor and didn't seem to be too toned-down for the general public.

All the plates and utensils are plastic and the interior is very clean if not too special. All of the staff has been very friendly on all my visits and the owner even more so tonight. The best part is that the most expensive items on the menu (the lamb and the shrimp entrees) top out at $9.99. The generous portion of hummus was only $3.75. My daily special was only $7.99. It's a great alternative to Chili's or other chains down at the Cactus and Tatum area. Judging by the large mid-week crowd and owner greeting many patrons like regulars, they have quite a following already.