Instead of a photo album, CityZen chef Eric Ziebold is using his menu to document his summer travels. “I was going to go to Europe for the whole time,” he says about his original plans for the restaurant’s annual two-week August vacation. “But that’s a long time to go to France, especially with the value of the euro. So I started looking into North Africa—a friend of mine has a house in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia.”
First, though, he hit Puerto Rico for a three-day weekend with friends from high school. Ziebold passed his days in Piñones, just outside of San Juan, nibbling on bites from street vendors. He was particularly taken with the grilled pork belly brushed with barbecue sauce, which cost him a mere dollar. The CityZen BLT, which includes crispy shoat belly, is part of an $80 three-course tasting menu.
Ziebold did end up in the land of baguettes and Brie for a week and spent every morning at the market in Archachon, near the Bordeaux region. Rare finds in the United States, such as tête de veau and veal tongue were readily available, as was the silky pâté forestier, made from mushrooms.
When Ziebold reached Sidi Bou Said, he took advantage of the city’s seaside location and tasted as much fish as he could. The best meals he had were at Cafe Vert, where grilled, head-on branzino and cuttlefish were both lightly dressed with olive oil, garlic, thyme, and harissa. But it’s the kab kabou—a Moroccan-style fish dish garnished with potatoes, olives, capers, and preserved lemon in a tomato broth—that you’ll see on the menu at CityZen. “It’s excellent conceptually,” he says. “But when I had it, it was poorly executed because the fish was overcooked. We’re going to do it with rouget and cook the fish correctly.”