Kisa brings the Middle East to the capital
Inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine with a large Turkish influence, Kisa's food is jam-packed with flavour
Plates of smooth hummus, dips of smoky roasted eggplant and peppers, fresh-baked handmade flatbreads, and lamb kebabs full of spices.
This is the kind of food that takes hours to make at home, and a lot of practice to get right. If you're looking for the perfect result with minimal effort, chef Jonny Taggart has got you. He’s soaked the chickpeas, chargrilled the vegetables, marinated the lamb, and shaped the flatbreads. Now the barbecue oven is fired up and ready to go, right in the middle of this central Wellington restaurant, Kisa.
Kisa is the brainchild of local restauranter Dean White, initially conceived as a pop-up restaurant in 2021. The huge response from diners to the limited-time restaurant lead Dean to make it a permanent fixture in 2022.
When Kisa was first dreamed up, Dean saw a gap in the Wellington food scene to explore the cuisine of the wider Middle East, including Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Israel. He tasked experienced chef Jonny Taggart to come up with a menu. Not having visited that part of the world before, Jonny threw himself into research. He watched Anthony Bourdain’s documentaries on the region, read extensively, and asked questions on online message boards.
While adapting the dishes for Wellington diners, Jonny realised the importance of accommodating different dietary restrictions. For Jonny, this is a nod to the social function of food in the Middle East. Eating is about sharing, people coming together, and feeling welcome. At Kisa, guests can enjoy large plates and a variety of mezze around the table, with lots of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.
Kisa speaks to my love of Turkey and we hope to capture the energy and essence of what eating there is all about.
The 90-seater restaurant space in the middle of Cuba Street centres around a large Josper Mangal (charcoal BBQ) - the only one in New Zealand. Kisa also has a custom gas-fired pita bread oven, for the tasty (and speedy) pitas that anchor much of the menu. The smoky, charred flavours make for an authentic Middle Eastern dining experience, with New Zealand produce and suppliers bringing the lens back to Aotearoa.
The largely local drinks menu features Martinborough wine and Wellington craft beer. There is also a selection of cocktails and house-made sodas with a Turkish twist.
Kisa is open Tuesday evenings, and Wednesday-Sunday from 12. Bookings recommended.