Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Itzik Hagadol - Encino, California

OVERALL RATING: * ( 1 star out of 5)
TASTE: * ( 1 star out of 5)

Itzik Hagadol is an Israeli restaurant across the street from the Encino Town Center shopping mall. A great location for a restaurant in Encino that holds so much potential. It shares the same name as a popular middle eastern restaurant in Israel.  From their website it seems that the two restaurant are connected:

Currently this is the most expensive Middle Eastern restaurant I've eaten in the united states - and unfortunetly the price doesn't justify the experience.
Even their lunch menus are super expensive. 
An average meal is between $30 - $50 per person and when you think what you get in return - some  Hummus and a little bit of middle eastern food -you ask yourself are people crazy for agreeing to pay that price?

As for the taste:
The Hummus is mostly bland and uninspiring just like most of their salads.
That said, their Pitas are baked on the premise and are wonderful and fresh. 
Their lunch 10 salad special is a scam. It's not only expensive (about $10 per person as a main dish and about $6 for a side dish and everyone at the table is forced to pay it regardless if only one person orders it or if everyone orders it) They bring to the table those salads that are the least inspiring. They don't give Hummus, Tabulleh or any of the salads that are what people usually desire and expect when they crave for middle eastern salad.

During lunch when I was there, the place was packed which proves that perhaps some people don't mind paying a lot and getting very little. 
Nearbye there are a lot of middle eastern restaurants. One of them even advertises a full buffet meal for $9.99. So it make one wonder about the logic or rational of Hummus lovers.

Here is their address for those not caring about price or taste. 
17201 Ventura Boulevard
Encino, CA 91316
(818) 784-4080

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What the...Hummus?

After Lebanon broke the world record with the largest Hummus plate ever, it seemed that it was just a matter of time before an Israeli would try to retaliate with his own Hummus world record.
It's the middle east, after all, and everyone wants to retaliate - right?
An eye for an eye, a hummus plate for a hummus plate...

So now,, a Hummus blog reports that they themselves had decided to take the challenge and created the...
Yes you read it right - the smallest Hummus plate.
Yes. It does sound kind of bizarre, but then again perhaps not more bizarre than the largest hummus plate. Here's the official link: claims that :
"39mm hummus plate, containing 14 grams of hummus. 300 Lebanese chefs were needed to break the record for the largest hummus plate. We only needed ONE!"

Based on images on their blog it seems that the hummus plate was smaller than a quarter.  Check their website for pictures. Guess, We'll have to wait for the official Guiness confirmation to see if their claim is legit.

I'm delighted that Lebanese and Israeli's have found a positive area in which to compete.
Maybe instead of a war, they could just create a Hummus olympics. It will probably be cheaper, tastier and I'm sure the people on both sides will enjoy it more.

Go Hummus teams, go!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bruno and the World’s Best Hummus

    Here's an interesting article I recently stumbled upon in the Jewish Journal. It's about Bruno and the World's Best Hummus.It's a great article and I urge you all to log on to the newspapers original article that also has pictures and all..
This article was originally writen in the LA Jewish Journal.

I know some of you may raise eyebrows about the source and wonder what could a Jewish American newspaper know about Hummus.
But I must say that in recent years under the leadership of Rob Eshman this old publication has truly reinvented itself.. The free LA JJ has become a hip LA newspaper read by both Jews and Non Jews dealing with issues that are relevant to all Angelenos about food, love, dating, politics, enviroment and yes... Also Hummus.

"If you can get past the thousand swinging penises, bare bottoms and endless dildos that fill most of the screen in Bruno, you can appreciate creator Sacha Baron Cohen’s genius for wrapping biting social commentary in fully-realized comic moments.  What I’m talking about is hummus.
About 100 naked penises into the movie,  fabulously gay Bruno decides he must do something major to become famous.  So he jets off to Israel to make peace in the Middle East.  Cut to Bruno/Baron Cohen sitting between former Mossad officer Yossi Alpher and Palestinian negotiator Ghassan Khatib.
Bruno takes advantage of their kindness by purposely confusing hummus the dish with Hamas the Palestinian terrorist organization.
A lot of stories quote a line or two from the exchange to show how Cohen duped the former Mossadnik, but the entire scene, in context, shows Cohen managed to make a much more important point.
“Why are you so anti-Hamas?” Bruno asks. “I mean, isn’t pita bread the real enemy here?”
“You think there is a relation between Hamas and Hummus?” Khatib asks.
“Hummus has nothing to do with Hamas,” Alpher responds “It’s a food. We eat it, they eat it.”
“You think there is a relation between Hamas and Humus?” Khatib asks.

Bruno looks confused. “Was the founder of Hamas a chef? He created the food and got lots of followers?”
Alpher begins to lose his patience.  “Hummus has nothing to do with Hamas. It’s a food, okay?  We eat it, they eat it—”
—“It’s vegetarian, it’s healthy, it’s beans,” Khatib says.

Then Cohen goes in for the kill: “So you agree on that,” he says.
Underlying these cultures,  both locked in a vicious war, is a commonality that is perfectly symbolized by a bowl of “healthy, vegetarian” beans.
Cohen, you have to understand, has an Israeli mother. (His dad is from Wales, which I guess doesn’t lend itself to as many funny food scenes).  When I met him two years ago, we spoke almost entirely in Hebrew.  He lived on a kibbutz for a while, and he has a degree in political science from Oxford.  I’m going to posit that in a serious conversation about the Palestinian Israeli conflict, he would astound Alpher.
But by playing the hummus card, he made one of the most powerful points he could about Jews and Arabs, and about food.  People who share the same food usually share the same fate. That’s true whether they know it or not, whether they act as if it’s true and learn to cooperate, or strive to ignore that truth, and turn their knives on one another.
The columnist Tom Friendman has famously written that countries with McDonalds never go to war with each other.  His point is that spreading democracy and free markets spreads peace. But Friedman’s McDonald’s theory begs a question: how can people who eat the exact same foods kill one another?
They can and do.
On an unmarked street in the Christian Arab part of the Old City of Jerusalem, find Lina’s.  I go there on every visit to Israel.  Seven tables, no fan.  The owner stands in an alcove by the entrance, pounding a wooden pestle into a simmering vat of garbanzo beans.  He pours in fresh ground tehina, he sprinkles in lemon salt and garlic, and all the time he keeps moving that stick-sized pestle,  until the mixture is smooth and almost white, and fluffed with air. There’s no menu.  You sit, a young man puts a slice of onion, a pickle and a tomato wedge in front of you, some warm pita, then the owner ladles some warm hummus onto a plate, drizzles it with olive oil, and sends it over.
It’s not 100 percent safe for anyone who looks too Jewish to get there—Jews have been attacked walking the Old City alleys, and Israelis will tell you it’s too dangerous—but there are always Israeli Jews inLina’s.  If you want the best hummus in Israel—I believe it’s the best I’ve had in the world—you have no choice.  So what does that mean?  Israelis will risk their lives to eat hummus with Arabs—they just can’t seem to make peace with them.
When I returned from my last trip to Israel, I decided I needed to recreate Lina’s hummus, or a close facsimile, in my kitchen.  Rule number one is: no canned chickpeas.  To make good hummus, you need to soak your own garbanzo beans.  For great hummus, make it and serve it warm.
Almost Lina’s Hummus
1 cup dried garbanzo beans
1/2 cup good quality tahina
2 cloves garlic
1 T. plus 1 t. baking soda
1 t. cumin
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 t. salt
1/4 c. olive oil
Paprika and Chopped Parsley
1. Rinse beans well and cull any dark, broken ones, and any pebbles, too. Soak beans overnight in water with 1 T. baking soda.  Drain beans, soak in fresh water for an hour.
2. Put in saucepan with water to cover by two inches, with 1 t. baking soda.  Bring to boil, skimming foam, then simmer and cooking til very soft, about an hour.
3. Remove from pot (do not drain away cooking water) and place in blender or Cuisinart with a 1/4 cup of the liquid, the garlic and cumin. Blend until smooth.  Let cool 5 minutes, add the rest of the ingredients and enough of teh cooking liquid to make a very smooth mixture, the consistency of soft sour cream (it hardens as it cools). Taste for seasoning.
4. To serve, pour onto plate, drizzle with more olive oil, sprinkle with paprika and chopped parsley, and serve with warm pita bread.
5. Now go make peace."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Habibi Cafe Westwood California

Every reviewer is always torn between his personal tastes and what he sees is the taste of the general public.  Perhaps that's why it's so hard for me to give an awful review to a successful restaurant that's always full of people. Maybe being a middle eastern myself  that causes my standards to be a bit high. Perhaps the crowd that comes to Habibi is less interested in the Hummus and more fascinated with smoking a Hookah close to UCLA. Habibi is  usually packed with college students wanting to mingle and smoke a Hookah.
But for those wanting a Hummus not a Hookah  I say - AVOID this place.

The Hummus tasted old and generic. I  felt it had too much garlic and I love garlic. So stating that something has a strong garlic after taste-  is not a comment I've ever used.

I also ordered their Falafel sandwich which comes in a small pita. There were about three Falafels in it overall and at the end I still felt hungry and unsatisfied. It costs $6.00 which is double what I would have paid if I would have ordered three one falafel in a small pita.
The Falafel came in the sandwich without hummus which was also dissapointing.

Their Falafel plate is $14 which I feel is robbery .

The Falafel is good but not great. I give it credit for being fresh - but the taste was nothing to write home about.  That said the way it was served was dissapointing. Tiny pita that doesn't really resemble a middle eastern pita - with a hole. It's more like a puffy Burrito or one of those things you get at a Greek restaurant. That contributed to the messy eating experience with this. It was also wrapped in an unusual way that made the entire meal uncomfortable and everything kept falling out of the sandwich.
If you're a college student on a date - don't eat the Falafel - cause you're almost guaranteed to look like a fool.

I wanted to check their take out as well and ordered a Hummus to go and got it in a paper box which was a first - Cheap paper that became soggy and added to the awful taste of the Hummus.
Also, they were extremely ungenerous with the Hummus. They served it in a very small quantity - oh and they dizzled some olive oil which helped make the box even soggier. This treat will run you $5.95 which for the size I felt was overpriced.

They don't accept Mastercard or Visa for under $10 - which means you can't just go in there and order a falafel sanwich . I waited to get the Falafel to go for over 20 minutes even thought there was no one there. The place has bad service and is very slow. Guess people who go there aren't in a rush.

If you're a college student and want to sit with friends to smoke a Hookah I'd recommend this place.
For food - I suggest go elsewhere.

This Hummus is one of the worst Hummus I've tasted in Los Angeles - and so I give this place a one star - only for the atmosphere.

AVOID. AVOID. AVOID if possible!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Is Hummus mentioned in the bible?

I found a really interesting article in another Hummus blog: HUMMUS101
It quotes a famous Israeli author, Meir Shalev's conclusion that Hummus was mentioned in the bible.

Here's what Hummus101 blog wrote:
"The first documented use of chick-peas to make humus in the middle-east, is from the age of the crusaders. What few people know is that humus was also mentioned in the old testament.
On the first time Ruth and Boaz had met in Bethlehem, he offered her some humus: “And at meal-time Boaz said unto her, Come hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar” (Ruth 2-14).
This is a mistranslation of course. The original word in ancient Hebrew, is “Hometz”. Which not only sounds a bit like “Humus”, but also resembles the word “Himtza”. The Hebrew name of chick-pees.
True, “Hometz” in modern Hebrew is vinegar. But you don’t really think Boaz was so rude as to offer Ruth to dip her bread in vinegar, do you?"

Well, Hummus Guide's meticulous blogger did some checking of his own and based on various English translation of the bible it seems that indeed some translations don't refer to the Hebrew word of HOMETZ, as vinegar but translate it as Roasted grains, meaning that Boaz gave Ruth Roasted grains to dip her bread into - i.e. a roasted grain dish - which is very likely Humus.

So it is possible that Hummus is biblical.

Thanks to Hummus101 and thanks to Meir Shalev the famous and great Israeli writer for noticing this.

Here's the link to the original Hummus101 blog about it: