EAST MEETS WEST
Za’atar is a new Lebanese restaurant in Lisbon, signed by Lebanese Chef Joe Barza in a partnership with Michelin Star Chef José Avillez’s Group. HN finds out more about Portugal’s latest gastronomic sensation from Chef Avillez
What sets Za’atar apart from the Lebanese-based restaurants in Lisbon?
I’m very interested in different world cuisines and I feel the offer of ethnic cuisines in Lisbon could be more expressive, just like in other European cities. Instead of walking that road alone, I chose to invite chefs of different nationalities that are knowledgeable and experienced about their countries' gastronomies to establish partnerships with us. I believe this way we can guarantee higher-quality projects. Za’atar reflects Lebanese culture, but also Chef Joe Barza’s personality - it’s a joyful, authentic and very inviting place. Za’atar offers traditional Lebanese cuisine with a twist in an experience that involves the five senses. The menu can be described as a symphony of Lebanese flavors and aromas.
What are the similarities between Lebanese and Portuguese cuisine?
Interestingly, there are plenty of similarities between the Portuguese and Lebanese in the way we carry ourselves and the role family plays in society. We’re generous peoples; we love socializing and welcoming guests with open arms and a plentiful table. Lebanese cuisine can easily win over the Portuguese, because it’s healthy, varied, Mediterranean and ‘sharing’ is its subjacent idea.
What is the feedback you've received?
We’ve been praised by Lebanese clients who are in Lisbon and are thrilled with Za’atar because it takes them back to Lebanon and makes them feel at home. There’s no better compliment. And those who weren’t familiar with Lebanese cuisine have been telling us they’ve surrendered to the flavors, the concept of sharing and the freshness of this cuisine. We’re very pleased.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m always thinking about new projects. New ideas generate energy and drive me to go beyond the usual boundaries of possibility. We are working on new openings in Lisbon, Cascais and Dubai, so stay tuned.