Review: Zakia brings flame-kissed Lebanese cuisine to Buckhead

Zakia's pitas, which are cooked in a special oven in about 70 seconds, are light and puffy. Henri Hollis/

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

Zakia's pitas, which are cooked in a special oven in about 70 seconds, are light and puffy. Henri Hollis/

Editor’s note: Starred restaurant reviews have returned after being suspended in March 2020. The AJC uses a four-star rating system — 1 star: good, 2 stars: very good, 3 stars: excellent, 4 stars: extraordinary. Restaurants that do not meet the criteria for stars are rated fair or unsatisfactory.

Prominently perched above the intersection of Lenox and Piedmont roads in Buckhead, Zakia Modern Lebanese Restaurant has something you might not expect: a soul.

It’s an expansive, glamorous, highly designed space, but the aromas wafting from Zakia’s open kitchen declare the restaurant to be more than a beautiful facade. The live, flickering heart of Zakia is the open flame beneath its grills, which diners often see leaping into view through the panoramic kitchen pass.

Above the double-height bar area is a large, backlit photo of the woman affectionately known as Zakia by her grandsons, the restaurant’s owners, Jonathan and Ryan Akly. The brothers, who also own Mission + Market in Buckhead and Tre Vele in Sandy Springs, clearly have added a more personal touch at Zakia, which they say was inspired by family recipes from their upbringing.

The outermost dining area at Zakia can open its windows in good weather. Courtesy of Erik Meadows/Zakia

Credit: Henri Hollis

icon to expand image

Credit: Henri Hollis

In the Levantine tradition, Executive Chef Michael Schorn’s menu focuses largely on mezze. Nearly all the best dishes touch the grill at some point, except for light, puffy pitas, which Culinary Director Ian Winslade said are baked fresh to order in about 70 seconds in their own special oven. While a dish of olive oil and za’atar served alongside the bread was nice, the best accompaniment was the smoky baba ganoush.

Hummus, in the Lebanese style, was creamy and mild at Zakia, made simply, with top-quality tahini and lemon juice, while eschewing garlic and other aromatics popular elsewhere.

When it comes to the selection of hot mezze, go for anything grilled. The open flame crisped some parts of the spice-roasted cauliflower and left others tender, while a surprisingly pink sumac-ricotta-labneh-mustard-raisin vinaigrette added a tart, creamy counterpoint to the warm spices.

Baba ganoush is impressively smoky at Zakia, where eggplant is charred over an open flame for the cold mezze. Courtesy of Erik Meadows/Zakia

Credit: Henri Hollis

icon to expand image

Credit: Henri Hollis

Charred octopus was cooked beautifully: smoky, with crunchy bits on the exterior giving way to tender meat. The grilled quail might have been the best dish on the menu; it was cooked perfectly and sat atop a fried disc of goat cheese, drizzled with sour cherry sauce.

Larger dishes showed less creativity, but continued to showcase the kitchen’s mastery of the grill. Lobster tails, which can be difficult to cook on an uneven open flame, were sublime. Kafta and chicken kabobs sported impressive grill marks, but remained tender and juicy inside. Grilled Norwegian salmon was lovely, though the portion was small for its $29 price tag.

Nods to Lebanese ingredients continued on the beverage menu. The best drink was the One Thousand and One Nights, a spin on an Old-Fashioned that combined bourbon and rye with cocoa and walnut bitters for an extremely smooth-drinking cocktail. The Cities of Salt was like a pomegranate, spicy margarita, while the Ruby Jewels was like a fruit-forward gimlet.

A selection of small dishes, known as mezze, is available at Zakia Modern Lebanese Restaurant in Buckhead. Courtesy of Erik Meadows/Zakia

Credit: Henri Hollis

icon to expand image

Credit: Henri Hollis

With comfortable seating and beautiful surroundings, Zakia is the kind of restaurant where you might want to linger. Unfortunately, that impulse is not always facilitated by the service.

On one visit, our server took appetizer and main-course orders separately, and disappeared for long stretches. Serving spoons never arrived for our shared dishes, and one item was forgotten until we asked about it.

On another visit, our server was excellent. After quickly explaining the menu, she asked us to order our full meal all at once, then coursed it for us as we ate. Her pacing was excellent, and she checked on our table just often enough.

Winslade said that Zakia, like nearly every other restaurant in the country, is struggling with staffing. And, the service issues were relatively minor. Open only a month, the restaurant still is working through a few kinks, but a comfortable chair can smooth a lot of rough edges.

Overall, Zakia is a very pleasant restaurant for a lively and engaging meal. The beautiful space, personal touches and dedication to live-fire Lebanese cooking make it one of the most exciting new restaurants in Buckhead.


3 of 4 stars (excellent)

Food: Lebanese

Service: sometimes excellent, sometimes slow

Recommended dishes: baba ganoush, falafel, spice-roasted cauliflower, grilled quail, charred octopus, tabouleh, roasted beets, grilled Maine lobster tails, red wine-braised lamb shank, crispy Brussels sprouts, eggplant stew.

Vegetarian dishes: za’atar marinated olives, hummus, baba ganoush, labneh, roasted red pepper and feta, falafel, batata harra, spinach cheese rolls, spice-roasted cauliflower, lentil soup, tabouleh, fattoush, tomato and cucumber salad, roasted beets, vegetable skewers, Lebanese rice, jaddarah rice, cottage fries, crispy Brussels sprouts, loubieh, eggplant stew, vegetable crudites

Alcohol: full bar

Price range: $$$

Hours: 5-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays

Parking: valet; free self-parking in deck, with validation

MARTA station: Buckhead

Reservations: recommended

Outdoor dining: no, but exterior-room windows can be opened in warm weather

Takeout: yes

Address, phone: 3699 Lenox Road NE, Atlanta. 404-205-5811


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