Zatar is a tiny Mediterranean in Berkeley serving organic food at pretty high prices. We went there one Friday night in September 2004 with our friends Regina and Boris and had overall a good experience.
The little place is very cute, it's decorated with Mediterranean murals and ceramics, and there were even two djellabas hanging on a cloth line on the 2nd floor. Though crowded, it's the kind of place were you can feel relaxed. Service was pretty good and always cheery, and despite how small the place was - Mika didn't seem to get in the way too much. They have high chairs and there were several young children that evening.
The menu explores flavors from the Eastern Mediterranean, and we tasted a couple of things that were new to us. Most of the dishes were similar to the ones listed online, though some were a couple of dollars more than listed.
Dinner started with some flat bread served with olive oil and some herb mix, put together it tasted almost like chimichurri. It was very tasty though the bread itself was nothing special. As appetizers, we shared the Leek and Goat Cheese Boreka (4 for $8.50) and the Mohamara ($6.75), a spread of pomegranate, walnut and roasted red peppers. The boreka was very tasty, the dough was crispy, and the filling flavorful; I'd order them again. The Mohamara was interesting. I've never had it before so I can't compare it with others. It had the appearance of a very thick orange curry, so its taste was a little bit disconcerting as I kept expecting it to taste like one. It didn't; it was slightly sweet, with a pleasant though not very deep flavor.
Mike and I ordered the kebab feast for two, which came with chicken, kefta, lamb and prawn kebabs, served over a bed of basmati rice and accompanied by jajeek (minted yogurt). We both agreed that the meats were good, though not extraordinary. I felt that they were all needed more seasoning, but they were very tender and were helped by some salt. Mike liked them as they were, though. The rice was good, but it lacked that buttery quality of Persian rice. My main complaint with the dish, however, was that the portion wasn't very large. A couple of more pieces of meat and an extra half a cup of rice would have made it a much better value.
Boris ordered the grilled leg of lamb ($20) served with a wheat pilaf. He was quite pleased with his lamb and I also thought it was very tasty. He found the wheat pilaf interesting though not captivating. Regina ordered the chicken kuzi ($19), a phillo dough pastry stuffed with chicken and other fillings. She liked it in general, though some bites tasted too much of cardamon to be enjoyable. I liked the bite I had (no cardamon) though I felt it again was underseasoned, and in all I preferred the version at La Med, especially given the price difference.
Both Regina and Boris had sangria with dinner. I tasted it and liked it though I think mine is better. I had a coke (it was good, no charge for a refill). We decided to skip dessert as none of them looked that interesting.
In all it was a good experience and yet I expected the food to be better for the prices. I am willing to pay more for the use of organic ingredients, but only if the restaurant uses them to awe me rather than merely satisfying me.
1981 Shattuck Ave.