Restaurant Review - Zem Han

Zem Han is a Mediterranean restaurant, not an Asian place as some of us thought!

Zem Han

4 West Main Street
Northborough MA 01532

(508) 393-0600

Blogger Bruce Tretter and I headed out for an enjoyable evening.  And somehow we both got the concept of the restaurant wrong.

Somehow we both thought Zem Han was an Asian restaurant.  It’s not.  It’s a fabulous Mediterranean restaurant located in the former Tom's Eatin' and Drinkin' Place in Northborough.  Follow 135 West and when the road meets West Main in Northborough you’ll be staring at the place.  So let the record show, we were both wrong…

Entering the tastefully decorated restaurant we were quickly seated.  It’s clear the staff is new and finding their groove, as they were somewhat tentative and often familiar when waiting on us.

The first thing we discovered is they haven’t quite received their liquor license yet.  No problem, there’s a liquor store a quick walk away and we divided and conquered; Bruce ordered appetizers and I got some Merlot.

The menu offers a decent Mediterranean and Turkish selection.  Bruce went with the Cold Appetizer Plate, a combination of hummus, haydari, eggplant salad, stuffed vine leaves, spinach dip and homemade labneh.  While it was all good, the stuffed vine leaves were spectacular.

The Bruce’s hot appetizer was Pan Seared Calamari with vegetables (Kalamar Tava) - calamari, green peppers, sherry tomatoes, onion, garlic and fresh herbs with olive oil and white wine.  The kitchen made a mistake and initially delivered a fried calamari (calamari, flour, egg and garlic.)  We did sample the fried calamari and found it respectable, although the pan seared calamari was fabulous.

We were struggling to decide what to have for dinner, and asked what the chef would recommend.  Our waiter said the kitchen was on the lower level, and we followed him to catch a glimpse of the kitchen.  We were met by one of the owners, Hakan Zirh.  He proudly described how they intend to hold cooking classes on the lower level after October, to show how to prepare some of the restaurant entrees.  He also shared an experimental recipe they are working on….

We couldn’t decide what to have, when Hakan’s partner’s (Yuri Krasnov) wife Galina came by.  She quickly asked for our preferences, and took care of the ordering for us.  Upon her return, she shared this is Zirh’s first restaurant in the US, whereas the Krasnov’s are into lasers and travel, with the restaurant business being a new venture for the serial entrepreneurs. 

Galina’s choice of lamb shank was fabulous.  I personally generally don’t fancy lamb, although I seemed to be drawn to this entrée.  The other meal was the Chicken in a Crock Bowl (Canakta Tavuk) - chicken breast with seasonal vegetables slowly baked in a rock dish topped mozzarella cheese, and served with rice.

My decaf cappuccino was just about a perfect way to end the evening, when Galina brought over Baklava - fine filo dough filled with walnuts, baked in oven and topped with a special syrup.  Buttery and sweet, the baklava is made onsite by the chef.

Overall, Zem Han was a hit, someplace Bruce and I agreed we’ll both visit again.  We left with leftover bags of our entrees and memories of an enjoyable evening.


Mon                  4:40PM - 9:30PM
Tue-Sun            11:30AM – 9:30PM

Zem Han gets a GREEN LIGHT…go and enjoy.

About the RAG scale:

       Green Light – Go and enjoy

       Amber Light – Use caution

       Red Light – Save your time and money

The Author

Gary Kelley has lived in Westborough since 1994. His reviews are what he would tell friends, and are not an academic analysis. You can follow him @glkelley or www.garylkelley.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Gary Kelley September 30, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Thanks for your comment Corrine. A liquor license would be a plus, although it was somewhat fun to run across the street for a bottle of wine on a late summer night. With a wine bottle in hand, the staff handled all the details....
jojo September 30, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Seriously...Are you kidding? Some one with connections? I feel that is a thoughtless thing to say. Personally having had a resturaunt and being denied a liquor license for no other reason then the old crab next door and the other licensed "establishments" something like 9 or 10 (nothing more than barfly infested hole in the walls that start serving alcohol and maybe peanuts or a premade sandwich at 10 am), worrying about their barfly business being syphoned off by a full service and reasonably priced resturaunt that closes before the the bulk of "patrons" come thru their door. We appealed the first and second denial and in a round about way were told it is going to cost us if we want a license. This was not in Northboro by the way it was in the gritty CORRUPT city of Worcester during the early 90's. If this sounds like sour grapes it isn't. We priced our food based on the availability of the license, and in doing that the liquor creates a higher return enabling menu prices on meals to come down significantly. (The x factor being if the owner truly is trying to deliver a high quality product at an affordable price) Nobody should need CONNECTIONS! We lost everything. I sincerley hope this resturaunt flourishes.
Gary Kelley September 30, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Jojo, your comment made after a couple decades underscores an important point. Running a restaurant is a tough business, often leading to personal sacrifices and "losing everything.". Even established Chefs can struggle (look at Todd English and the issues he's having with the rent at the Charlestown Olives or Boston's Kingfish.) I admire anyone willing to give it a chance a celebrate their success. Regulations/licenses are a big part of the price of running a restaurant and can clearly contribute to a restaurant's demise. Thanks for sharing you personal story, jojo.
Ron Goodenow October 27, 2012 at 01:34 PM
We went there last night and have to agree that this could evolve into a really welcome new area restaurant. The service and food were superb and we utterly enjoyed a long after dinner conversation with the rather amazing owner, who was very receptive to some ideas -- maybe cut portion sizes of appetizers, make lighting a little more 'romantic' and perhaps supplement the heavy emphasis on lamb with other choices a little more attuned to the Central Mass palate. If you have not had Turkish food it is nicely spiced (not really hot) and features some very interested sauces and 'pickles'. We had two lamb dishes that were wonderful, my kebab being a very interesting variation on Greek gyro and Carol's being diced and served with veggies in a bowl. Portion sizes were more than generous. Wonderful baked bread was served with a delicious mixture of garlic, tomato, onions and doubtless more. The town has approved a bar license and we look forward to the state doing likewise. In the meantime, grab a bottle and give this place a try. You'll be happy you did. Thanks for the attention Gary.
Barbara Cappucci November 19, 2012 at 05:45 PM
cant wait to go!!


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