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Montclair’s Zeugma: Mediterranean Flavor with a Personal Touch


Note: Jersey Bites was invited to visit Zeugma Mediterranean Grill. The meal was complimentary.

Diving In

I am not usually one for outright gushing, but when I say “You need to get to this place,” believe me.

Executive Chef Can Alp, who was born in Turkey, has designed a menu that blends Middle Eastern dishes with European influences. For instance, his delicious muhammara is made with a sweet pumpkin puree instead of the usual red peppers and has a slightly spicy finish.

Pumpkin muhammara (Photo courtesy of Zeugma Grill.)

In his dish called Beet Heaven (below), he takes labneh, the creamy yogurt spread popular now at many restaurants, and adds organic baby beets and lemon for a wonderfully bright and flavorful dish.

beet heaven

Beet Heaven

Rip a piece of his homemade pita bread to drag through the sauced eggplant, redolent with green peppers, onion, and garlic, and you’ll be in heaven.

I could have made a meal of the manti and the borrek, two items I was not previously familiar with. Manti are terrific little Turkish dumplings stuffed with shiitake mushrooms in yogurt sauce, and drizzled with paprika oil and parsley oil. Chef Alp rolls pastry and stuffs them with spinach and feta to create the delicate borrek.

Borrek

Borrek

Not to be missed if you are a fan of grilled octopus, Zuegma’s rendition is worth the trip. I enjoyed a hearty serving with grilled zucchini, topped with roasted pumpkin seeds, roasted cherry tomatoes, and a fabulous Kalamata olive dressing. 

Salad, Entree, and Dessert

Looking for a salad but craving something a bit different? Try the roasted artichoke and kale salad and you won’t be disappointed. A beautifully composed dish of baby arugula, artichokes, kale, mixed greens, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds—all blended together with a light lemon balsamic dressing.

For my entree, I chose the grilled lamb chops. Although they were cooked slightly more than my requested medium-rare, they were seasoned perfectly, and served with a delicious black garlic roasted eggplant puree, a bit of harissa sauce, and a delightful side of fresh mint, arugula, and parsley.

Chef Alp does double duty as Zeugma’s pastry chef, and wowed us with what’s known as the Z-Chef Special (below). You can definitely see how his prior experience in Paris continues to influence him here. He takes delicate French meringue, whips pastry cream with strawberries, and plates it on a gorgeous lake of raspberry sauce.

Z-Chef Special

Poached pear

As if that wasn’t enough, he brought us a delectable warm, dark chocolate fudge brownie topped with pistachio gelato and crushed pistachio. And then, the pièce de résistance: a beautiful poached pear soaked in a spiced red wine with “floss” halvah and vanilla bean gelato, in a sangria reduction! Magnifique!

I loved that much of Zeugma’s menu is designed for sharing. Take advantage of the menu sections labeled “mezzes” (small appetizers) and “in the middle,” (slightly larger plates) and craft your very own Mediterranean feast.

Hello Again

To re-confirm my original sentiment of “Get yourself to this place!” I went back anonymously. And I’m happy to report that the food and service were just as good as I originally experienced. 

Zeugma is BYO but is also a retailer for California’s Domenico Winery, selling both full and half bottles (no wine by the glass).

Zeugma is open for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner every day, and brunch Saturday and Sunday.

Zeugma Mediterranean Grill
44 South Park Street
Montclair, NJ
973-744-0074

Hours and menu items are subject to change.

Photo at top courtesy of Zeugma.

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