Brunch at Mazah

By Columbus Alive
From the February 7, 2013 edition

Congratulations, your shakshoukah options in Columbus have doubled. Previously, (terrific) Olive Tree in Hilliard was the only place I knew where you could get this delicious tomato and slow-cooked eggs dish (think Middle Eastern huevos rancheros); Mazah’s recent launch of a weekend brunch warp-speeds that number to two. But there’s more to Mazah’s excellent new midday menu (served 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday) than shakshoukah.

If you haven’t visited lately (the heck’s wrong with you?), one of our best Middle Eastern restaurants has undergone a minor makeover. Mazah’s perennially bright and merry space is now armed with more wall decorations, extra seating (meaning it’s, uh, cozier) and super-affordable adult beverages (some people claim this is key to a “civilized” brunch).

So, would you like a Carrotini ($6)? Why yes you would — if you dig a frothy, fruity and potent spiked smoothie starring fresh carrot juice sweetened by pineapple juice and emboldened by vodka, that is. In the mood for something dryer? Try the funnily named Bloody Carrot ($7), which marries Bugs Bunny juice with tomato juice and the usual accoutrements to wind up with a burnt sienna-hued, lighter and sweeter version of the early-day libation.

Food deals are equally alluring. From the small brunch menu’s appetizers, the Labaneh and Cheese Bread ($3) is a keeper. It’s warm, housemade puffy flatbread strips spread with a yogurt cheese and sauteed onion concoction that positively dances on the tongue. For a heartier start, go with the comforting, root vegetable-thickened and cooked-onion-sweetened Red Turkish Lentil Soup ($3 for a huge bowl), served with croutons — i.e. Mazah’s irresistibly tangy za’tar spice mix dusted onto its toasted flatbread.

Keeping with tradition, Mazah’s Shakshoukah ($8) arrives in a cute mini sauté pan. Instead of tomato sauce, this version uses a sorta garlicky salsa and scrambled egg base as a foundation for three sunny side uppers. Quite good on its own, it takes on extra interest when nibbled with the three sides it comes with; my faves from these choices are Mazah’s creamy and harmonious hummus, lifit (pickled turnips), Bulgarian feta, nice olives and/or labaneh.

Three sides accompany Mazah’s other egg dishes, like a satisfying omelet ($6). Though kinda oily, I enjoyed that disc’s chunky, cooked onion and fresh parsley character — even if I missed its menu-promised minty kick.

Veering away from ova, the Hummus and Chicken Shawarma plate ($11) was outstanding. It was tender and juicy, turmeric-yellowed and lemon-showered boneless poultry pieces on a bed of that fabulous hummus served with pita and Mazah’s bold, salty and addictive house hot sauce.

There are also huge, fresh salads like a fully equipped Greek ($8) or a similar model topped with Mazah’s zesty falafel ($8). The only minor disappointment I tried was a rather bland Fava Bean entree ($7) that would’ve worked better as a warm and soupy appetizer dip — especially if enlivened with that spiky hot sauce.

Breakfast dessert? Oh hell, you have to, because Mazah’s outrageous Kenafi ($6) is a rare and splurge-worthy confection (best enjoyed with thick Turkish coffee, $2). It’s crispy, butter-fried filo dough threads nestled around melted (mozzarella-y) akawi cheese and formed into a sort of shredded wheat bird’s nest. Anointing the golden-browned beauty is warm “honey syrup” speckled on top with crushed pistachios and walnuts. Whoa.