We now know what Rotigo’s reimagining looks like: Roasted chicken is out and Mediterranean cuisine is the focus.
Zula has taken over the space that the Northwest 23rd Avenue poultry restaurant occupied until last October. That’s when Rotigo announced on social media that it would temporarily close and then reopen with a different concept.
The new undertaking pays tribute to Zula owner Tal Tubitski’s time spent in Tel Aviv and the city’s multicultural culinary scene. Prior to moving to Portland during the pandemic, Tubitski helmed a popular Venezuelan restaurant in the Florentin neighborhood, characterized by many as a hipster hangout with a thriving nightlife, which sounds like a perfect slice of pre-pandemic Portland.
He is joined by executive chef Caleb Rose, who cooked in Tel Aviv for five years and relocated to Portland in 2020. If you’ve ever eaten at Lil’ Shalom, you have probably tasted his handiwork since he last held the position of sous chef at the Sesame Collective restaurant.
Zula’s menu is driven by Israeli food. But you’ll see ingredients from multiple countries—some that border the Mediterranean Sea and others that do not.
“We’re highlighting the flavors, dishes and techniques from Lebanese, Moroccan, Greek, Palestinian, Israeli and Iranian cuisines, among others,” Rose stated in a press release.
Most of the items are small plates, so this could be an ideal place to order one of everything and conquer that with a group of friends. Think filo and feta, served with locally sourced honey and toasted sesame seeds; Persian cucumbers; fried cauliflower with yogurt and olives; and a fire-roasted eggplant. There are also more substantial skewers, including Moroccan salmon with a spiced tomato curry, chicken, lamb, and a vegan/vegetarian option of mixed mushrooms.
Zula’s hummus should also be worth exploring on your initial visit since it stands out, at least compared to other versions of the creamy dip around town. Here, it comes with a soft-boiled egg, which is a traditional accompaniment in Tel Aviv.
The beverage program was created by manager Christine Nelon, who’s had years of experience in the industry having worked at Toki, St. Jack, Departure and Grüner. To complement the food, you can expect drinks made with ingredients from the Mediterranean and names to match the neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. For instance, there’s the Florentin, a blend of pea flower-infused gin, Fever-Tree tonic and herbs as well as the Montefiore, Zula’s take on the old fashioned.
Wines from Macedonia, local draft beer and a lineup of booze-free drinks (beet shrub, mint lemonade, gazos) round out the drink menu.
“We are very happy to be here, with a friendly new place that has the energy and vibrancy of the multicultural city I called home for so many years,” Dubitski added.
Zula officially opened its doors March 17. It’s open from 11:30 am to 9 pm Wednesday through Sunday.