Sherman's Food Adventures: Zula PDX

Zula PDX

After a restless night of trying to sleep on a foreign bed in our hotel room, I was somewhat ready to eat some more.  We made our way to the Nob Hill neighbourhood to check out Zula.  As stated on their website, Zula's cuisine is inspired by the Mediterranean city of Tel-Aviv.  As for the venue, the dining space is open with high ceilings and plenty of natural light.  We find an open kitchen at the back and a beautiful bar on one side.

We were presented with a Mezze of 3 Spreads consisting of hummus, muhammara and labneh.  This was served with grilled pita.  Beyond the visual attractiveness of the dips, they were equally delicious.  I found the hummus to be smooth with a bit of texture.  The olive oil really came through while the za'atar added nutty and earthiness.  Although looking spicy, the muhammara was not as it was more sweet and nutty than anything else.  Finally, the labneh was thick and creamy with some tang and nuttiness.

Onto the Fried Cauliflower, we found it tossed in Berbere vinaigrette and accompanied by garlic yogurt, olive, pistachio and pomegranate molasses.  The cooked-through, yet still firm cauliflower was slightly spicy but equal parts tangy and earthy.  The yogurt underneath added both cooling and creamy elements while the molasses provided a balancing sweetness.

Seemingly one of the simplest dishes was also one of my favourites in the Spiced Potato Wedges.  These appeared to be fried multiple times, hence, they were crunchy with a golden brown appearance.  Tossed in aleppo, the wedges were a bit spicy while also tangy.  The side of dill aioli helped cool things down while also adding a creaminess to the fried texture of the wedges.

Although the next dish was only 2 slices of cheese, it was visually-striking and ultimately very tasty.  The Seared Halloumi sat atop confit squash, marinated cipollini, endive, hazelnut and persimmon.  With smoky caramelization, the cheese was at its squishy best when eaten.  The drizzle of date syrup really enhanced the flavor of the cheese.  Loved the sweet persimmon too.

Beautifully plated, the Wine Braised Beets featured pistachio, caramelized onion and pickled shallot on a bed of labneh and dressed with moscatel vinegar and olive oil.  Tender, yet with still a bite, the beets were earthy as usual.  However, the flavours were a bit acidic with some sweetness, in part due to the vinaigrette.  With complimentary flavors from the sweet onions and nuttiness from the pistachios, there was some balance to the predominantly tangy dish.

Another under-the-radar item was the Fire-Roasted Eggplant with tahini, garlic, rosemary and feta.  This was so soft and creamy while with the addition of the tahini and feta, this became even creamier and rich.  There was also a background smokiness to the dish that was nicely accented by the woodsiness of the rosemary.  Even though this wasn't a spicy dish, there were spice notes.

Onto some bigger items including the Skewer Plate featuring chicken and lamb with grilled pita, chermoula and salad.  This was a beautiful plate of food that featured proteins that were perfectly prepared.  The chicken was well-charred and marinated while also being moist.  The lamb kofta was juicy and well-spiced.  The bright chermoula was a nice compliment to the meats.

We also tried their Moroccan Salmon Skewer Plate with spiced tomato curry, labneh and grilled pita.  Also exhibiting a nice sear, the chunks of salmon were perfectly prepared.  Inside, the meat was medium-rare, which ensured that it was moist and delicate.  That tomato curry was so impactful, yet at the same time not acidic.  Hence it paired well with the salmon.  Of course the thick and creamy labneh was welcomed, along with the olive oil and confit garlic.

Our last skewer was the Mixed Mushroom (predominantly oyster mushroom) which was shockingly, my favourite!  Yes, there was no meat to be found, but the "meatiness" of the mushroom was further enhanced by the caramelization on the outside which created a more robust texture.  Moreover, the side of piri-piri sauce amped the flavours up even more so with spice and garlickiness.

For dessert, we had the Hawaij Ice Cream with Yemeni spices topped with sesame brittle and a drizzle of honey.  Oh this was so aromatic and delicious!  The earthiness of the spices really came through (even in texture) while the honey and brittle added extra sweetness and texture.  Okay, let's just say we were "wowed" by the food at Zula.  Everything (and I really mean it) was vibrant and delicious.  I would totally come back when I'm in Portland.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this post*

The Good:
- Delicious and impactful flavors
- Eye-catching
- Beautiful space
The Bad:
- Parking is a bit hard to find in the area
- The bigger dishes are limited on the menu 


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