JNew York’s power lunch is not dead. He lives in the shiny restaurants around Hudson Yards, a neighborhood on Manhattan’s west side that – to those who haven’t visited the city in a few years – seems to have sprung up fully formed and glistening in glass and steel. Tucked away in its maze of newly constructed towers and pedestrian walkways where New York’s executives sit and eat lunch is Zou Zou’s – a newcomer that caters to the upscale clientele of the recently opened Manhattan Pendry West hotel.
Zou Zou’s has “power lunch” written all over it for several reasons: in addition to being in the current location to open an office, it has stunning high ceilings, large windows letting in light, and instantly pungent interiors. Globe light fixtures like giant pearl rings hang above warm terracotta banquettes; Moorish-style tiles set the stage for your table; and tendrils of greenery frame a glamorous, jade-tiled cocktail bar on one side.
Above you is an intricate criss-cross wooden ceiling that draws the eye. Running along the interior wall is the very open kitchen, where the chefs skewer and smoke juicy bits of meat, vegetables and lobster, preparing treats influenced by food from the Eastern Mediterranean and the Levant: namely Lebanon. , Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Syria and Jordan.
We start our taste of the region with a platter of mixed dips – expecting to like the creamy hummus and umami babaghanoush, but end up reveling in the clean freshness of the whipped ricotta topped with infused sticky apricots with saffron. All of the above is coming on a retro, casablanca-feel a golden platter in lovely individual ceramic bowls, with freshly hammered and toasted flatbreads just waiting for us to dip into our hands first.
We listen to the guys in suits giving us names and doing business around us as we move on to grilled whole artichokes with garlic butter and a fattoush of shaved vegetables sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and candied pecans. The proliferation of vegetables on this menu will delight veggies and vegans alike – we haven’t even touched on the carrot muhammara dip, caramelized cabbage or roasted sweet potato.
The artichokes are a bit of a disappointment – after peeling several layers of lightly woody and chewy “petals”, a center choke the size of a champagne cork is tasty but small. The fattoush is delicious and full of freshness in a city where you would have overdosed on melted cheese and red meat.
But best of all are the meat skewers, filled with Middle Eastern herbs and tangy with lemon juice and pairing beautifully with the vegetarian sides. Chef Madeline Sperling (formerly of Gramercy Tavern and The NoMad) talks to us about the vibe and the interplay between the open kitchen and visible grills and dining room. She is assisted by Juliana Latif in a female-led kitchen, creating dishes that match the room in eye-catching colors and intriguing details.
There are showmanship elements here that will also wow your most important client. A fire-roasted leg of lamb is minced on the plate at your table, while a duck borek wrapped in puff pastry is brought whole and sliced with a mezzaluna. Mint yogurts and rich pickles come in light side dishes, letting you load each fork just the way you want. Cocktails are also a big rush for the Mediterranean sun: think fig, orange blossom, Aleppo pepper, mint and muskmelon, complementing refreshing spritzes and Manhattans with a touch of originality.
Everything on this menu looks incredibly tempting, but most dishes feature either a name or an ingredient you may not have had before. And with Levantine cuisine not available everywhere in this city, Zou Zou’s feels like a destination in itself.
385 9th Avenue Suite 85, New York, NY 10001 | www.zouzousnyc.com | +1 212 380 8585