he latest addition to the growing Over-the-Rhine dining landscape has been touted as a mix of wine bar and Mediterranean tapas restaurant. Chef Tsvika Silberberg recently opened Zula at 14th and Race streets, bringing an assortment of dishes inspired from his hometown in Israel and other places around the sea such as Italy, Spain and Northern Africa.
Zula is beautifully crafted with a swanky interior and lined with artwork by local artists. The one difference when comparing Zula to its OTR counterparts is the size — Zula is huge. The expansive space won’t make you feel guilty for coming by with a group of friends. With easily more than 100 places to sit and enjoy dinner, large birthday parties can feel at ease here.
As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what Silberberg was going for. Just take a look at the large communal table when you first walk in, where diners can enjoy watching cooks prepare small plates right in front of them. It’s even equipped with an adjustable mirror so people across the table don’t have to strain their eyes to watch cooks demonstrate their knife cuts. When we visited, the rest of the restaurant was packed with people sitting closely, talking, sharing food and enjoying their dining experience with other diners. Silberberg’s whole concept forces diners to look over at their neighbor’s food and share that glance that says, “Yes, we ordered this and it’s awesome.”
We sat at one of Zula’s small tables in the back by the wood-fire oven, with a full view of the kitchen and bar and checked out the wine list, which starts at a reasonable $5.70 for a glass. They have 12 beers on tap, including familiar names like Christian Moerlein and Dogfish Head, and a full bar and corresponding cocktail menu.
The menu is divided into hot plates, cold plates, big plates (which are the dinner features), flatbread and desserts. Each dish is delivered one at a time, tapas style, giving people at the table a chance to try more than just their own courses.
We started our meal off with something small that I’ve never seen on a menu: Eggplant Fries ($7.75). They came out battered and fried to a golden brown crisp and gently sprinkled with powdered sugar. They tasted like a vegetable funnel cake on their own, but were a savory treat when paired with the spicy and sour dipping sauce.
We ordered two pots of mussels, the Marinière ($14) and Thai ($15). Both pots were fragrant and filled to the brim with steamy, plump mussels. The Marinière was garnished with lemon wedges and parsley, and the Thai had bits of fresh lemon grass floating in a savory coconut juice. One recommendation: Get the freshly baked ciabatta bread ($3.50) with your mussels and dip it into the bottom of your mussel pot to sop up the leftover juice.
Zula’s artisan flatbread is a staple on the menu, but don’t call it pizza. According to Silberberg, it takes three days to prepare the dough before it hits the wood-fire oven.
We tried the four-cheese Goat Cheese flatbread ($15.75), topped with fresh mozzarella, fontina, taleggio and chives. Think of a rich, creamy fondue smeared across bubbly charred crust and sprinkled with chives. Believe me, you don’t want this whole flatbread to yourself — your friends must try it.
I wish I had more room for other dishes such as the Yellow Fin Tuna Crudo ($12) from the cold plates menu or the time-intensive Lamb Moussaka ($9) from the hot plates menu. Maybe next time I’ll bring a big group of people so I can get through the whole list of flatbreads; you know they’ll have space for us.
Go: 1400 Race St., Over-The-Rhine
Hours: 5 p.m.-midnight Tuesday-Wednesday, 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursday, 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Friday, 5:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Saturday