Halal options at Zaitoon Kitchen

zaitoon kitchen chicken wrap

By Deanna Fox

How bold is this claim: The best new dining hotspot in the Capital Region is that area around the Latham Circle.

I mean it. When was the last time you dined there? I bet you opened social media in the last week and found a photo of someone eating in that area. Superior Thai, Chinese, Eastern European, and pub food can all be found just off Exit 6.

Now there's halal food, too, with the recent addition of Zaitoon Kitchen, another example of why this spot is becoming a premier local food destination.

Zaitoon Kitchen bills itself as "cage-free, veggie-fed halal," bringing popular modern food terms to traditional halal food. Halal, like kosher, is a religious guideline (in this case, for the Muslim community) on how livestock should be slaughtered for consumption. (Note: That is a very general explanation of what halal means. You can read more here.)

Halal cuisine is nothing new to the area. Schenectady has had a longstanding cache, and Albany's Central Avenue corridor has also experienced an influx of halal-abiding restaurants in the last two years.

Now Zaitoon Kitchen, which opened earlier this year, is joining the wave of food options in Latham. The Troy-Schenectady Road stretch surely has its share of chain establishments, but tucked among them are also jewels such as Ala Shanghai, and Celadon Thai, and Tipsy Moose. Down the road is Euro Deli or Dnipro. Go just a bit beyond the circle, and you'll find longtime favorites such as Bella Napoli, Saati, and a string of beloved diners.

The menu at Zaitoon Kitchen is loaded with flavor; go with a group to try the array of interesting sides and rice plate or wrap options. (I'm aching to go back to try the fish wrap, made with whiting, and the kabuli made from caramelized carrots and raisins to top some rice.)

zaitoon kitchen wrap hummus wings salad

On my first visit, my friend and I tried the ground chicken wrap, made from cage-free halal-approved ground chicken balls (like a kofta), served on a pillowy pita with fresh lettuce and tomato and drizzled with a tangy herb dressing and buttery olive oil ($8).

We also tried the wings, a boneless version that comes paired with a creamy white "Spin Sauce" that seems to be a play on classic NYC halal cart white sauce made from mayonnaise, lemon juice, and spices like sumac, turmeric, and cardamom. (It looks like this sauce is being bottled by a local company. More to come.) A zippy oil-based red sauce was also served, relying on cayenne, sumac, and cumin for a peppery, but sweetly floral, kick ($6).

Roasted red pepper hummus ($5) is unfussy, made from chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon, and salt and served with soft pita wedges. And a fattoush salad of lightly-dressed romaine, tomato, cucumber, and crispy flatbread chips ($4) was more than enough food for two.

The Latham Circle/Exit 6 corridor gets busy. And if the traffic is a deterrent to you, make plans to visit Zaitoon Kitchen in the "off hours," either later in the evening after rush hour traffic, or between 2 and 4 pm -- after the lunch crowd but before the onslaught of commuters. (Online ordering is available, too.)

Deanna Fox writes about many things, mostly about food. More can be found on her website, Twitter, or Instagram.

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Find It

Zaitoon Kitchen
471 Troy-Schenectady Road
Latham, NY 12110

Comments

Have eaten in and picked up food from Zaitoon..the Babganoush is fabulous as is the lamb wrap and the falafel. The dumplings are to die for!! This place is always packed and glad to have them so close to home!!!

I'd prefer to have my eyes ripped out than have to endure the quaintness of a night out in Latham....particularly the Latham Circle area! Hell on earth!

Hi all! Just following up on Spin Sauce. Yes, it's a local product, made by the cousin of the owner of Zaitoon Kitchen. (Props to Roni, who told me "zaitoon" means "olive" in Arabic.) Spin Sauce is available at area Price Choppers and will also be the focus for the menu at a new UAlbany restaurant (from the Spin Sauce owner) called Halal Shack opening this fall.

Mediterranean/Halal food has officially jumped the shark in Albany. There is one on every nearly every corner now.

It reminds me of the sushi invasion of several years ago. And while Zaitoon is new, their cuisine is hardly novel.

The food here is total trash. So expensive! Not real Afghan food! When you eat real Afghan rice it has a flavor. Go to Afghan Kabab Express on Central Ave instead people.

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