One of that new breed, a hybrid of restaurant and lounge, Zikrayet—in Alexandria’s “Carlyle” neighborhood—has diversions aplenty. A belly dancer undulates through the dining room on weekends. A DJ plays Arabic and house tunes on Fridays. Hookahs packed with aromatic fruitwoods are there for smoking every day of the week. And there’s food, too.
Chef Samer Ramadan, formerly of Georgetown’s popular Neyla, has put together a menu of mezze and bigger plates. Dips are a strong suit: Olive oil adds depth to the silky hummus, and the baba ghanoush is wonderfully smoky. Tabbouleh is a true parsley salad with flecks of bulgur and tomato. Also good: a salad of beets with well-dressed beet greens.
From the lineup of hot plates, pan-fried halloumi cheese is nicely crisped, and kibbeh batata, a wedge of spiced ground beef, pine nuts, and potatoes, is a less familiar but delicious pick—the bar’s orange-blossom-spiked lemonade makes a great foil for the savory pie. Kebabs tend to be dry, and the tiny Lebanese sausages known as makanek are gritty-tasting. Better to go for juicy beef kofta or shawarma, marinated strips of beef or chicken, with spiced red onions, pickled vegetables, tahini sauce, and a mound of almond-studded basmati rice.
Service and pacing have come up a notch or two since the early going, but there’s still room for improvement. If you’re intent on covering all the bases, getting the right plate at the right time counts, too.
This review appeared in the January, 2009 issue of the Washingtonian.