Rating: 8 / 10
You find treasures in the oddest places. Having lived for 14 years in the capital, Oslo, and struggled to find anything above a decent Falafel (Gaza Kjøkken), it would never have occured to me that the holy grail was hiding in the city of heroin and herring. Strung beside a grocery store on Haraldsgata, this tiny Syrian eatery offers everything from lambs hearts, pizza, shawarma, falafel and manakish.
What sets Al Zaiem apart from an abundance of mediocre fast food joints in Norway, is their attention to detail. Right down to the freshy prepared pita bread made to order, the piles of achingly crisp vegetables and pickles, home-made sauces and hummus, all cooked while you enjoy a cup of tea and stare out of the window at life passing by in cold frames.
Having visited 5 times in the past couple of months, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend anything from their extensive menu. The Chicken shawarma is delicately spiced and juicy (ask for a side of Ambar sauce), the falafels are the Palestinian/Syrian style with fresh herbs, the manakish perfectly prepared and the service always done with a smile.
Although Haugesund is most definitely not a tourist destination in of itself, if you happen to be passing through or even catching a ferry/bus onto Stavanger or Bergen, make it a point to head downtown and try this place.
All these recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively
"Sadness is tempered by umami, grief by the motion of slurping, hope restored in the ladling of glistening, fatty broth"