Zaytoon is so cute. On top of that, the authentic, Middle Eastern food is really good, fresh and delicious. It seems like the perfect place to have lunch with friends or colleagues or a “go-to” relaxed weeknight dinner with no dishes to wash. Should we start with cute? Zaytoon just has this upbeat vibe. It is light and bright. Augmenting the cuteness, as Zaytoon is a family-owned restaurant, was the family filling the place. It was one of the children’s birthdays the afternoon we stopped in and everyone was happy and in a loving mood. You could tell that they were a close and proud family. I think the love in the room made my food taste better. If I were to have one complaint about the place, it would be that there is so much to choose from. Some of the choices are Shawarma — chicken or beef, kabobs, stuffed grapes leaves, falafel and more and that’s just the main dishes. Side choices include hummus, soup, Tabbouli, Fattouch salad and much more. Of course if you’ve got a gang, you can always get a variety thanks to their Family Platters. Editor Emily and I ordered our own meals and shared (per usual). She opted for beef kabobs and I went with chicken Shawarma. Along with the main course, the plates we ordered came with rice, hummus, pita bread and a salad. She went with the Fattouch salad, I opted for the Tabbouli. The platters, along with the salads, were so abundant that they hit almost every highlight that make up Middle Eastern cuisine. Both of our salads were colorful concoctions topped off with fresh dressings that made them a perfect complement to the rich and creamy hummus that was ladled on our plate. Apparently Emily’s grandma makes a mean Tabbouli so she was ready to grade Zaytoon’s secondary. She was happily surprised at how much she liked it. I really liked the hummus. It was a refined puree with a perfect pitch of flavor and texture. The same could be said about almost everything we ate. The seasoning was there and everything had a ton of flavor. However, it was nice to not be run over by garlic or parsley, allowing the well-cooked and fresh ingredients to really shine. Emily’s kabobs had perfect cubes of tender beef with a few green peppers thrown on the skewer for flavor. My chicken Shawarma was everything I adore, tender and tasty with the perfect amount of kick. I mentioned that the items on the menu were restrained in their seasonings, creating lovely balanced dishes. This is true for everything but the garlic sauce. It is like a garlic bomb. It was so good I had three servings smothered all over my Shawarma-stuffed pita. Emily would barely talk to me when we were done. We had to finish off our lovely meal with some dessert. What did I say before? No meal is complete without a sweet. Since everything is homemade at Zaytoon, I was very much looking forward to some baklava. There were cookies and rice pudding, of course, but I wanted a heavy, gooey pastry. What I got was a mouthful of wonder. Emily and I did not go classic in our baklava. We went chocolate. So mixed among the flakey layers of nuts and honey was chocolate and … cinnamon. A lot of cinnamon. It was a crispy, sticky pile of taste bud treasures. Zaytoon is a sweet little gem to be discovered on the westside. The food is great and the family that owns it seems to be fun. They even had an outdoor party recently complete with music and bounce houses. Don’t miss their catering menu. Maybe they will come to your house. Zaytoon 940 Elmwood Road Lansing, MI 48917 (517) 203-5728 www.zaytoonlansing.com
Colette Evangelista sells certified organic, non-toxic beauty, health, baby and home products at www.healthandhopeorganics.com. Twenty percent of her profits go to Ascending Above Autisim, a charity that helps parents pay for autism treatment.