'Every dish on our menu is a memory made real': Dubai-based food author crafts unique culinary experience

Dalia Dogmoch talks about her new venture in Dubai and her sentiments for Palestine

by

Husain Rizvi

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Published: Tue 16 Jan 2024, 8:01 PM

Last updated: Wed 17 Jan 2024, 8:09 AM

Dalia Dogmoch grew up in a traditional Syrian home, but her story weaves through Europe, a short stay in the US for college, and 17 years of living in Dubai where she recently launched Zinn Cafe & Bistro, a gourmet concept that reflects the cookbook author's multicultural upbringing and current life in the UAE.

In addition to being a seasoned chef, Dalia also uses her platform (@daliaskitchen on Instagram) to raise awareness on the Gaza conflict.

The name 'Zinn' holds significance, she says in a chat with City Times, not just as the German word for 'senses,' but also as a symbol of awareness and consciousness. "Now more than ever, we all need to be aware of the plight of the Palestinian people and its injustice which is something that strikes a deeply personal chord for me."

During our chat, she explains her unique concept and how she envisions creating an atmosphere that is both comforting and refined.

Congratulations on the launch of Zinn Cafe & Bistro! It reflects your multicultural upbringing and current life in the UAE. What is the inspiration behind the concept?

Thank you very much! I'm very excited about sharing Zinn with the UAE. It's been a while in the making and it reflects my upbringing. I'm Syrian-German, was raised in France and then moved to the US. My mother used to cook traditional Syrian food at home, but I grew up in Paris, a culinary capital and thus I have always combined both worlds in my cooking. I wished to offer customers everyday dishes that are slightly refined but still feel like food that is familiar which they would like to eat every day. Having lived in Dubai, a multicultural city with a beautifully diverse population, for the past 17 years, I wanted to bring food on the table that was recognisable yet original.

The cafe is described as a place where "comfort food becomes a home away from home." How do you envision creating an atmosphere that is both comforting and refined for your customers?

Zinn is more than just a place to dine—it's your chosen spot for savouring wholesome food, indulging in exceptional coffee, relishing freshly baked treats, and plugging into your work from the comfort of your laptop. It's a space that exudes a coworking vibe, making it a perfect spot to connect with like-minded people.

When it comes to our food, I like to describe it as refined comfort cuisine. We take everyday dishes that I grew up with, infuse them with an Arabic flair that adds that extra layer of deliciousness, and bring a hint of nostalgia from home. It's about elevating those familiar favourites to a whole new level.

What sets us apart is the attention to detail that our team gives to the dishes. We remember how our regulars prefer their coffee or steak, whether they like their salad dressing on the side, and those little nuances that add that extra sprinkle of familiarity and comfort. It's these personalised touches that I believe are essential to make someone feel truly at home at Zinn.

The menu seems to be a narrative of your multicultural background. Could you walk us through how each dish tells a unique story from your diverse culinary experiences?

Growing up in a traditional Syrian home laid the foundation, but my story weaves through Europe, a period in the US for college, and the last 17 years here in Dubai.

Every dish on our menu is a memory made real for me, which I hope evokes memories for others too as the dishes are familiar with a touch of uniqueness. My goal is to craft an experience that not only resonates with my own recollections but also stirs up nostalgia and familiarity for our guests. Consider our breakfast offerings—French crepes adorned with fried eggs and a sprinkle of Zaatar, a Croque Monsieur featuring a Levantine cheese mix, or my mother's cherished Chicken Cabbage salad. For a heartier fare, we've got a Sumac dusted salmon with cauliflower mash or Homemade 7h braised lamb gnocchi with whipped labneh. And, if you've got a sweet tooth, our cheesecake with a sesame base is a nod to the Syrian barazek cookie.

In every dish, I strive to blend the comfort of the familiar with a touch of distinctiveness. It's my way of bringing people on a journey through flavours that are close to my heart and hopefully, create new memories for them too.

The special item, Megdo’s Musakhan Roll, seems to have a special connection to Palestine and your grandmother. What is the significance of this dish and its role in reflecting the emotional ethos of Zinn as a conscious brand?

My grandmother made the best Musakhan rolls, which is a traditional Palestinian dish. Given what is happening in Palestine, this is a memory of its glorious food culture. The name 'Zinn' holds significance, not just as the German word for 'senses', but also as a symbol of awareness and consciousness. Now more than ever, we all need to be aware of the plight of the Palestinian people and its injustice which is something that strikes a deep personal chord for me.

As the founder of Zinn, how do you see the restaurant contributing to the evolving culinary landscape in Dubai, particularly in terms of offering a unique dining experience?

To be honest, my vision is to weave our restaurant into the very culinary fabric of Dubai. Our menu, which is almost a culinary roadmap of my journey so far, is inspired from traditional flavours but with an innovative touch to present a fresh perspective on the dishes we all know and love. At Zinn, we're all about inclusivity, catering to a variety of dietary preferences to offer a balanced lifestyle through our diverse offerings. Our personalised service takes it up a notch, with our team committed to remembering the unique preferences of our regulars. It's those little details that add an extra layer of familiarity and offer a true Zinn experience.

The menu features a diverse range of dishes, from indulgent breakfast options to salads and desserts. How do you balance indulgence with healthier options to cater to a wide range of dietary preferences?

I always advocate for maintaining a well-rounded lifestyle. Zinn’s commitment to providing nourishing food ensures a diverse range of options. Whether one prefers the bold flavours of our creamy refined sugar-gluten-dairy-free Peanut Tahini Oat, Berry Porridge for breakfast, or opt for a lunch featuring the vegan Charred Roasted Veggie Bowl with Zaatar chimichurri, we cater to various dietary preferences. For those inclined towards protein-packed meals, our menu includes hearty options like a satisfying steak with roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli or a flavourful Chicken in Tahini Sauce with Barley. The common thread in all our dishes are their rich flavours, reminiscent of familiar tastes and memories. This ensures that our offerings are not reserved for special occasions but are dishes one can relish every day.

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