Roasted pumpkin and ginger purée topped with gently spiced chickpeas. The north African recipe comes from Chef Mesika's grandmother.
Crazy Baba ($5)
Smoke-tastic eggplant purée mixed with pungent feta for a dip that combines Middle Eastern baba ganoush with Greek tyrokafeterie.
Pita and Tahini
A plate of this starts your meal; don't be shy about asking for refills. The pita is among the best you'll find in New York, not made in-house but available for purchase right at the restaurant. Chef Mesika is particular about his tahini, and it shows: it's incredible, thankfully both a mother sauce at the restaurant and another item available for purchase.
Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar ($7)
Of all the small plates we tried, only the burek with its subdued mozzarella-almond filling disappoints. But even there the phyllo wrapper, glistening with honey, is shatter-crisp the way it should be, the way so few others in New York are.
The spacious dining room is homey and casual, with Led Zeppelin and The xx humming in the background. Among the many charms that Zizi offers, a great one is the service, which treats you with unrushed kindness and genuine hospitality.
Sabih Croissant ($10 at lunch; $11 at dinner)
Eggplant and egg on a croissant? With potato salad and harissa? But it works—beautifully—and it's a worthy croissant as well. Read more here »
Zizi Sub Moroccan-Style ($10)
Filled with juicy chicken, smoked eggplant, tahini, and preserved lemons. It's as fun to eat as it is to think about.
Charred Beet & Lentil Salad ($11)
It sure sounds ordinary, but its sexy dressing of sweet carrots, ginger, tahini, and dates runs laps around the salad bar staple.
Shawarma Wrap ($10)
Similar to the sub, but with lamb instead of eggplant and a greater emphasis on the excellent preserved lemons.
Stuffed Root Veggies ($15)
We enjoyed the cinnamon-tinged chickpea stew and yogurt dollops in this dish more than the kofta-stuffed beets and zucchini. But hardly a chore to finish it.
Five Hour Boureka ($15)
The spiraled pastry is filled with unctuous braised oxtail, but the meat lacks the vibrancy of other dishes on the menu. Accompanying sides of loose tomato purée and tahini do help.
It's just beer and wine for now, but they hope to start cocktails soon once with liquor license comes in.
Basbosa Semolina Cake ($7)
The homemade vanilla ice cream in this dessert, really a scoop of vanilla with halvah crumbles on top, could stand to be creamier, and those sesame crumbs are just too dense.
Turkish Coffee ($2.50)
It's more like an Americano in taste and volume, which you'll find welcome or frustrating depending on your coffee tastes.