Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Restaurant 54: Hummus Place

Clockwise from top left: Hummus Tahini, Health Salad, Pita Bread, Hummus Masabacha.

RESTAURANT: Hummus Place
LOCATION: 109 St. Mark’s Place
DATE: July 15, 2005
FOOD: Split the following: Hummus Tahini (with chick peas, tahini, olive oil & spices) ; Hummus Masabacha (with whole chick peas, tahini, olive oil & spices – served warm) – both with Hard-Boiled Eggs; Health Salad (tomato, cucumber, parsley, onion, olive oil & lemon juice)
PRICE: $20.00 – Courtesy of Libby

It’s the old aphorism, frequently employed by parents and technical specialists alike – do one thing and do it well. Rarely, if ever, though does a restaurant take this maxim to heart. With restaurant’s menus expanding in proportion to diner’s waistlines, for a restaurant to go against the trend and stick to one food and one food only is a bit shocking. But just as all of Wes Anderson’s films utilize a similar style to create engaging cinema, so too does Hummus Place, in the East Village, take one idea and run with it.

And that idea, obviously, is hummus. The void, Styrofoam hummus purchased at grocery stores nationwide has no relation to the type of pureed chickpeas served at Hummus Place. The tiny, Israeli owned restaurant churns out hummus that redefines the very nature of the dip. Offered in three varieties, the hummus is made fresh several times daily and is served warm, in large, soup-bowl portions. Hummus Place mines the details and traditions of its namesake dish, using Mid-East spices to take the puree back to its roots.

Having visited Hummus Place two times previously, I had spoken of its marvels to Libby on numerous occasions. A lover of all things vegetarian, Hummus Place had perked her interest. We ordered the Tahini and Masabacha, both with the requisite hard boiled eggs. The Tahini is as smooth and rich as melted chocolate, lacquering the mouth with a texture akin to warmed cream. The center of the bowl has a more refined mash applied to the chickpea and its velvet near liquidity is astonishing. The sleekness of the Tahini indicates the role of beans as a chunky and cumbersome side dish as a thing of the past.

The Masabacha on the other hand presents the chick peas in the whole. Spread throughout the otherwise serene hummus, the bold and chewy chick peas are an excellent study in contrasts, allowing the tongue to jump from one texture to the next in the same bite. A green, olive oil centers, adds a delicious subversion to the thickness of the chick peas.

Ordering the hummus with hard boiled eggs is an essential, on par with seeing the Pixies in concert or reading Cervantes in the original Spanish. Though not a combination I had had before, upon first tasting the way the slippery exterior and chalky interior of the egg interacted with the hummus, I never want to eat hummus any other way. Libby was also taken back by the surprising way the seemingly disparate ingredients complimented one another.

But as good as the hummus is, it still wouldn’t be as transcendent as it is without the warmed and puffy pitas that come with every order. These are true pillows, containing the perfect level of grain and flour to support the hummus. The freshness and simplicity of the tomato and cucumber salad was also a welcome addition to the meal, each bite practically declaring summer in its taste.

Hummus Place sets a standard other, larger and more ambitious restaurants would be wise to follow. Being able to take a run of the mill dish and make it magical is something most places can only dream of. But dreams are reality at Hummus Place. Factoring in that nothing at the restaurant is more than five dollars, Hummus Place might be the best cheap food in all of Manhattan. It certainly has my vote.

RATING: 9.0/10

1 comment:

tara said...

Pointless sidenote: the line about Wes Anderson made me grin. S and I were recently discussing Mr. Anderson's constant use of Futura Bold in his films. Yes, we were discussing typefaces, is that odd?

On point, the colours and textures in the Masabacha look divine.