By Nick BeJeaux
When you hear “Mediterranean” in the context of food, you may think “Greek” or “Lebanese.” There’s nothing wrong with that, as many joints that specialize in Mediterranean cuisine are in fact Greek or Lebanese. But Bill Qasem, General Manager of Zoroona Mediterranean Grill, says that his restaurant wants to be different.
“We’re trying to position ourselves to be the standard of Mediterranean Cuisine in Baton Rouge,” said Qasem. “We’re not Lebanese, Greek, French, or Spanish. We will pick the best from each country on the shores of the Mediterranean, so we are not going to follow anybody, we are to be followed.”
For Restaurant Week 2015, Zoroona is offering their best selling dishes as the main courses on their special menus: grilled salmon, chicken, and lamb shank.
“We were thinking about the customer when we were deciding what to offer,” said Qasem. “Some people don’t like chicken, so we’re offering lamb; if you don’t like lamb, you can have chicken and if you don’t like either, you can have fish.”
The Zoroona Chicken, according to Qasem, is by far the most popular item on their menu. The chicken breast is broiled to juicy perfection and flavored with a blend of spices that resembles ras el hanout—a North African blend that varies from shop to shop, but typically consists of many spices like coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, and paprika. This blend of spices gives the meat a warm, distinct, and delicious flavor with a subtle heat that any Louisianan worth their salt will enjoy.
The chicken is topped with a cream sauce—which also has a little kick to it it—along with sundried tomatoes, olives, fresh mushrooms, and artichoke heart. The tomato and olives balance the spicy creaminess of the sauce with their tart saltiness, and the mushrooms and artichokes provides something to bite into other than chicken. With this course you are able to pick two sides, but we recommend that at least one of them is the basmati rice – so you can soak up all that wonderful sauce.
We were also able to try the Lamb Shank, and we were just as blown away by it as we were with the chicken. Broiled and served on a bed of basmati rice with pine nuts, this is a dish to order if you’re very hungry. While it is certainly a lot of food, it’s quantity does not dilute its quality. The meat is fork tender—I would go so far as to say you don’t need teeth to eat it. Like the chicken, it too comes with a subtle heat, but it’s a more, shall we say, sneaky. The lamb also comes with a side of mint jelly—a classic condiment served with lamb – which balances well with the savory meat and brings the dish full circle.