Authentic Lebanese/Mediterranean Cuisine
Review: Zeta's Grill brings Lebanese cuisine to Avondale by Barbara Yost, Special for The Republic 1:34 p.m. MST March 6, 2015
Zeta's Grill, which opened in December, specializes in Lebanese cuisine and Mediterranean classics.
The best way to taste a range of appetizers is to order one of the sampler platters.
The mixed grill ($15.95) is a combination of succulent lamb, chicken and kafta.
A new family-owned restaurant in Avondale is cause for great interest. When it exceeds expectations, it's cause for celebration. We cheer every time an independent eatery makes a successful foray into Restaurant Chain Land.
Zeta's Grill, which specializes in Lebanese cuisine, opened in December with a menu of well-crafted Mediterranean classics. Whether you're a meat lover or vegan, you can nicely stuff yourself here and be warmly welcomed by the serving staff.
Scene: This is a spacious cafe with tiled floors, black tables and booths, food art on the walls and stylish decor in black and white. Huge windows on one wall let sunlight stream through. Our server and one of the owners who helped deliver food could not have been more pleasant and solicitous. I would come back here just for the friendliness of the staff. But I also would come back for the food.
Appetizers: You can't pass up the appetizers, and the best way to taste a range of items is to order one of the sampler platters. We chose a selection of cold favorites ($8.95) that included hummus, stuffed grape leaves (here called stuffed vine leaves), falafel and tabbouleh. The best was the grape leaves, those small gems filled with rice and vegetables that never fail to please. The hummus was good, topped with a cluster of pomegranate seeds. If you're a fan of tabbouleh, note this version is especially flavorful. The falafel fell a little short, the small deep-fried patties of ground chickpeas with spices and seasonings being just a little dry. The four items are attractively presented in a grid of four square white dishes with garnish.
Don't be tempted to fill up on the warm, puffy pita bread that comes gratis. On second thought, do be tempted. This is made in house and is just about irresistible, served with a dark sesame dipping sauce.
Meat dishes: The meme that kept traveling around our table was how moist and tender all of the meats were.
The mixed grill ($15.95) is the carnivore's dilemma: Which to eat first? This is a combination of succulent lamb, chicken and kafta. The lamb and the chicken are charcoal grilled as a kebab and then slid off the skewer for ease of consumption. The kafta is ground beef that is formed into what looks like a skinless sausage. All three are melt-in-the-mouth with deep flavor, served with grilled tomatoes and onions.
Zeta's roasted chicken ($11.95) is plated as three grilled filets tucked under a warm pita that is thinner than the puffy appetizer pitas. Several of the entrees arrive hidden under a pita like a gift packaged with everything but the bow. The luscious roast chicken is garnished with a wedge of watermelon and comes with spicy potatoes — cubes of roasted potatoes with a happy kick to them. What also comes with the chicken is a bowl of garlic sauce, a blob of white fluff with the pungency of garlic and the consistency of marshmallow cream. Smear it on everything — within reason.
Gyro is a kind of compressed meat roasted on a spit, a cooking method that wards off toughness. At Zeta's, the gyro platter ($10.95) comes with a pile of sliced beef gyro and a cup of creamy tzatziki cucumber and yogurt sauce. Cut it with a fork and stuff it into one of the pita products on your table with a nice spoonful of tzatziki. You won't be disappointed.
We tried one more item and were glad of its company. The grilled minced meat kabob pita ($5.50) is a pita wrap rolled around ground lamb or turkey. Also tucked inside are tomatoes, hummus, a chiffonade of lettuce and a sprinkling of onions. It came with watermelon and a pepper. This and a side salad would make for the perfect lunch.
Sides: Some of the sides are worth mentioning. When we were there, the soup of the day was a rich chicken soup, with pieces of vegetable in an opaque broth. Fries are one of the choices to go with your entree selection. They're fine, but I would stick with the less ordinary choices. If you order a side salad, you're treated to a bright, fresh mix of greens with ribbons of red cabbage, cucumbers and tomatoes glistening in a light but zesty vinaigrette. The grilled vegetables are another good selection, a melange of such veggies as squash, zucchini and red peppers.
Desserts: As you walk in the door, you're not far from an impressive dessert display case with all kinds of beautiful cakes, cookies, baklava and other pastries. Zeta's aspires to be a bakery as well as a restaurant, but right now, most desserts are not made in house. Your taste buds probably won't know the difference. We had a velvety chocolate layer cake ($4.95), and we didn't care where it was from, with its dark chocolate layers and fudgy icing.
The baklava ($2.50), however, is made in house, and it's good. We tried the walnut and the pistachio. My complaint is that the pieces are quite small. I know it's rich, but I can always take home the leftovers.
Drinks: Zeta's has just started offering wines, bottled beer and cocktails, with plans to expand.
Zeta's Grill gives Avondale a welcome addition to its dining landscape. Anyone with a taste for Lebanese and Mediterranean cooking will find paramount dishes in a gracious setting.
Reach Yost at email@example.com. She dines anonymously and The Republic pays all expenses.
Where: 2935 N. Dysart Road, Avondale.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.
Stars: 4 stars (out of 5), based on food, service and ambience.
Price: Less than $20 per person for a three-course meal, excluding beverage, tax and tip.