But his restaurants are what prove the point. He’s been giving Colombia a tasty culinary mix for years, taking his Lebanese roots and combining them with Colombian ingredients. Zaitún Café was born in Sincelejo for 13 years, and Beit Quessep has been providing Barranquilla with good Arabic-Colombian dishes for three years. Alex’s love of vegetables, spices, and grilled food goes well with the Lebanese roots that shine through on the menu of those restaurants.
And now he’s brought his creation to Bogota. Zaitún opened in the capital city in March of this year. It has an ideal location, in the well-known restaurant area Parque de la 93. Zaitún’s corner spot gives it a wide space for outdoor dining, with an elegant and clean design that is mostly dominated by plants and wood tables. Outside, diners can choose to sit under a transparent roof (to soak up the Bogota sun) or under large umbrellas that give good coverage. Inside, there are only 14 seats. The long couch along the left side is good for a glass of wine or sharing a dessert after an evening film in Cinemanía (a movie theater that focuses on independent films). http://www.cinemania.com.co/
Zaitun in Bogota borrows many of the main dishes from the menu in Barranquilla. There are 14 salads on the menu, with meats such as turkey, grilled chicken, smoked salmon, falafel, or a few Caesar salads. The seafood salad was recommended, and the kibbe salad looks enticing.
Most of their appetizers are good for two or three people to share. They have a long list of wraps, including roast beef and falafel. Their desserts change weekly and can include Nutella pie, apple pie, carrot cake, or chocolate cake with arequipe.
Wine and drinks
They have a short wine list, with a Chilean house wine for COP$16,000 a glass (Sauvignon Blanc or Carmenere) or you can choose a bottle. They offer whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, or beer (Club Colombia, Miller, Grolsch, Peroni birra). Although they don’t have cocktails on the menu, they can prepare the classics.
They serve Illy coffee (from COP$4,000-6,500 depending on how you ask for it). They have a selection of Harney and Sons teas: dragon pearl jasmine, Darjeeling, mint, organic Assam, and one called Paris that sounded like a scrumptious dessert: caramel, citrus, currant.
What we ate
Hummus Premium: It seemed more like meat premium: chopped meat took center stage, cooked with basil and mint, over a bed of hummus, and topped with chopped almonds. It’s served with pita bread and olive oil. The creamy hummus was just right, slightly tangy. In my opinion, it was good size for three people to share, or for one person it could be a light meal.
Lomo en salsa ajonjoli. The meat was a good cut, cooked as ordered (medium rare), which is rare in Bogota: usually waiters here don’t believe you when you say medium rare. It was served over mashed potatoes with dash of pesto served on the side. What they call “Arabic salad” that accompanies it was a tasty fattoush, a green salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, radish etc.
The falafel wrap was tasty and light, with a tangy dressing. The bread is pleasantly thin.
We finished it all off with coffee (I had a marvelous macchiato) and a delicious mango tea from Harney and Sons with apple, hibiscus and mango.
- Appetizers: COP$12,500-19,000
- Carpaccio menu, (beef, salmon, or vegetables): COP$19,000-25,000
- Wraps: COP$18,500-24,000
- Meats: COP$21,000-29,500
Zaitún is an excellent place to share an appetizer before catching a movie at Cinemania, right across the street, or for a relaxing drink afterwards. I’ll definitely be back for a light lunch when I’m in the area. And frankly, the service made this restaurant even more special; the waiters were warm and attentive without being smothering, and more knowledgeable than I normally find in Bogota. Our waiter, Ricardo, tried hard to provide a good, personalized service, and he was sweet in that Colombian way that you won’t get anywhere else in the world.
Check out these recipes on Zaitun’s blog.
Calle 93B #13-91, Bogota