Taza may be small, but it punches above its weight with a menu packed with bold and exotic flavours.
--BY AASHIYANA ADHIKARI
Located on the busy Pulchowk road, Tazaat first seems unassuming, barely ruffling the waters of the crowded pond of Lalitpur dining when it first opened its doors two years ago. But the main business of restaurants is to satisfy the craving for appetising food, and Taza has become one of the few restaurants that have smoothly gained popularity among locals and foreigners over a short period of time.
Established in2014 by Bassel Shreiqi who is from Syria,Taza was born from a simple idea: to serve authentic Syrian food to Kathmanduites."As my wife is from Nepal, I used to come here on holidays but I fell in love with the country so much that I wanted to start a business here," says Shreiqi. He noticed that there were very few Middle Eastern eateries in the capital and opening one was an obvious step.
The inside of the restaurant is simple which complements the bold, clean flavours of the food on offer. The service is impeccable, and the unpretentious menu will satisfy your hunger for new cuisine from a different part of the world. Adding to the delightful environment is the streaming Arabic music which lends an air of authenticity to the restaurant. The tables are small and lined up next to each other, bringing you close to the people you’re eating with and to people you weren’t planning to eat with. The walls are painted in a warm yellow colour creating a vibrant environment for diners.
Taza offers a wide selection of vegetarian, fish and meat dishes, from appetisers to entrees, inspired by traditional home cooked meals. Made in the Syrian style, from Shreiqi’s mother’s recipe, the Shawarma Falafel Wrap is shaped like an egg with squared-off ends, not the usual lopsided sphere found around town. This is strategic, to expand surface area, for more crust, without sacrificing inner tenderness. It is delicious, whether eaten alone or anointed with the Tahini sauce, for which Shreiqi imports a Syrian paste prepared from sesame seeds. The Baba Ghanoush made with grilled eggplant mixed with Tahini garlic onion tomato and capsicum, pomegranate syrup is an absolute delight to your taste buds. Chicken Shish Tawook, a dish prepared by whisking chicken with a variety of spices, is an explosion of new flavours. One of the most revered dishes in the restaurant is the Chicken Toshka which has a perfect balance of flavours with thinly sliced layers of spicy chicken and cheese in between two pieces of grilled flatbread. As a bonus, the chef adds a generous portion of fries to every main dish.
On the vegetarian side, the mixed vegetarian platter is a must try. The platter is a combination of Hummus (a creamy, thick spread made primarily from mashed chickpeas), Babaghanoush (eggplant without Tahini), Falafel, fries and salad. The amazing taste of Muhammara which is in fact a hot pepper dip taken with bread, is unmissable. The Mixed Grilled Chicken served here is very different from those served in other eateries. The Middle Eastern flavours in the chicken are absolutely new to Nepali taste buds. Taza's special mix platter is also a dish worth trying. The platter consists of Mutabbal, Baba Ghanoush, Shawarma Wrap, Toshka, Kabab and Sheesh Tawwok served with fries, bread and salad.
Service is always of a high standard at Taza, with waiters and managers always attentive– there is a genuine sense that they care about the food they make and are therefore keen to know how the meal is going. It creates an incredible and enjoyable dining experience with great food and good value for money. And as the Syrians say," New experiences bring delight", so go and indulge yourself and take a delightful voyage into the simple, bold yet complex flavours of Syrian and Arabic food.