After having a couple of very tasty gyros at the recent Greek Festival (made by nearby Niko Niko’s), I have had more of a hankering for the casual food like this with roots in Anatolia and the Levant. Also, I want to try to banish the memory of the several bland, hopelessly mediocre versions of that fare that I had eaten at Vertskepab, a new fast-food chain. So, when I found myself in Galleria area around lunchtime, I visited a place that had always provided an enjoyable and very good value meal, Zabak’s. It was crowded with local office dwellers and Middle Eastern immigrants, even at 11:15 AM, a good sign.
The cheerful and easy-to-like storefront is a great place in the Briagrove area, just west of the Galleria, for a well-made, quick and informal Middle Eastern food. The focused menu serves most of the casual eastern Mediterranean dishes that have become popular in Houston. There are succinct descriptions for each dish to help the uninitiated, who probably won’t remain so for long. There is beer and wine, unlike restaurants of similar cuisine and caliber on nearby Hillcroft. Hummus, tabouli, spinach pies, Greek and Caesar salads are some of the starters and salads, beef and chicken shawarmas, gyros, kabobs and falafel (deep-fried patty of chickpeas and parsley) in plate and pita sandwich form make up most of the heartier fare. For every preparation, the ingredients are noticeably top quality and suitably fresh and ripe, and the resulting flavors are appropriately clean-tasting. The beef shawarma, one of the highlights is cooked in a unique fashion here, which works well. It begins with thinly sliced beef that is marinated and then cooked on a flat grill. The resulting beef is crisper than usual, and seems to mix even better with the onions and zesty tahini sauce.
For beef-loving Houston, the kafta kabob here is made solely with ground beef rather than with lamb or a lamb and beef mixture, as at some other local places. The kabobs, served solely as plates, include versions with sirloin and chicken breast, and are skewered and grilled with tomatoes, onions and red and green bell peppers. These come with a choice of sides and pita bread. The shawarmas, falafel and kafta sandwiches are served with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, tahini sauce and the mildly fruity and astringent spice sumac. There is also a gyro and Chicken Caesar Pita plus the heart-healthy hummus and tabouli combination.
For the sweet tooth or as reward for eating healthier than usual, Zabak’s not only has baklava, but also a good version of namoura and appealing White and Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake and Carrot Cake made with pineapple, walnuts and cream cheese icing.
5901 Westheimer (at Fountain View) 77057, (713) 977-7676