Sunday, January 29, 2012

Israel 2012

The Israeli Hummus scene is exploding. There's a lot of new players opening daily and there's a lot of the classic places still there.
One of the most popular Tel Aviv Newspapers - MOUSE - ( Kind of like the NY VILLAGE VOICE or the LA WEEKLY - had their readers rank Hummus joints. Here's their ranking:
For those who can't read Hebrew - here's the list:
1. Abbu Hassan - Jaffo
2. Sayed - Acres
3. Abu Adehem - Kfar Yassif
4. Abu Adehem - Tel Aviv
5. Hummus Ashkera - Tel Aviv
6. Bahadonness - Ramat Gan
7. Pinati - Jerusalem
8. Halil - Ramleh
9. Hummus Lina - Jerusalem
10. Abu Gosh Hahadasha- Derech Hashalom 65 Abu Gosh

We also decided to check a few places - and here's our conclusions for 2011/2012

1. Ali Karavan (or) Abu Hassan - Tel Aviv - Jaffo
Still considered by may Tel Aviv residents as the top tier Hummus joint. Opens early and closes in the early afternoon. Always crowded. Cramped seats. No frills but great Hummus. THUMBS UP!

2. 206 - Moshe Sneh 54 - Tel Aviv
A very popular place that's always packed. They have great food and wonderful service but their Hummus is mediocre. They also have a wonderful fish restaurant next door. Hummus is their major flaw. THUMBS DOWN!

3. The Lebanese Restaurant - Hashalom 88 Abu Gosh:
Abu Gosh has a huge culture of Hummus and so many legendary rivalaries. We've checked a few places there. The Lebanese - one of the most popular places there - has great service and wonderful prices -but their Hummus is mediocre. Thumbs down!

4. Mifgash Karavan - Derech Hasalom 27 - Abu Gosh:
This place used to have great hummus. Then it deteriorated for many years. We decided to recheck even thought we had very little expectations after all the times we were frustrated by it. But today their Hummus has greatly improved. While it's not a top tier restaurant like it used to be. They still serve very good Hummus and are located in a beautiful location. THUMBS UP!

5. Hummus and Tehina: Outskirts of Kfar Shmaryahu:
This is a small Hummus joint on the outskirts of one of the richest neighborhoods in Israel. The Hummus used to be really good but this year in our random test - relative to the past it deteriorated - so unfortunately for this year we'll have to give it a thumbs down - but we do like this place and it feels intimate and local and are so hoping next year when we check it again it'll prove us wrong and improve their hummus like it used to be - fresh and tasty. THUMBS DOWN!

6. Hazaken Vehayam ( Old Man and the sea) - Jaffo.
One of the best Middle Eastern restaurants in Tel Aviv - a huge cultural phenomenom. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for their wonderful service. Huge salad offerings and their extremely colorful serving of food. This is a must for every tourist coming to Tel Aviv. It's truly amazing.
That said - their hummus is only mediocre and sadly while we truly love this place and hope it'll continue it's unique style and offerings - in terms of Hummus - it's a THUMBS DOWN!

7. Ahmed and Salim - Herzlia
Good Hummus. This place also used to serve much better hummus but something happened. It's hummus quality has deteriorated. THUMBS DOWN

8. Sabich Florentine - Florentine 36 Tel Aviv
Great Hummus - THUMBS UP.

9. Mifgash Gesher Hayarkon - Derech Namir 136 - Tel Aviv
Used to be one of the best low key Hummus joints located in a gas station. The place is still fully packed - but their prices have skyrocketted, their service has gone down, their quality and their quantity of hummus has also deteriorated. Bummer. It was such a great place. Please come back to what you were. Please? THUMBS DOWN.

10. Abu Yussuf - Kikar Paris - Haifa
A legendary restaurant - located in a renovated and historical place in downtown haifa. The food was of extremely high quality and they were extremely generous with the portions but the Hummus wasn't the stuff legends are made of and we were highly dissappointed. THUMBS DOWN!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pitaway on Melrose, Los Angeles

I entered Pitaway on Melrose after seeing the huge sign of grand opening outside. Everyone loves grand openings So I had to enter, hoping for a new love affair with this new place. I learned it’s the second Pitaway in Los Angeles – which might hint they’re hoping to become a franchise. Everything in the look of the store shouts FRANCHISE. It doesn't look like a fast food place but rather like a modern fast food restaurant. That said, the middle eastern restaurant that was there before them - Muma, which was reviewed in this blog in the past - also shouted Franchise – and yet apparently it didn’t make it into a franchise- so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for this one. I think LA does deserve a middle eastern restaurant chain with good and fast falafel. This place is new – so I’ll revisit it in a few month after they solve some of their opening quirks. Wanting this place to succeed – I’ll give my own humble opinion what they need to work on in order to succeed in a very competitive street like Melrose. But would love to hear what other people think of this new place:


This restaurant has the logo of a fast food place, the décor of a fast food place, the overall energy of a fast food place, and yet extremely slow food service. The secrets of a fast food franchise is that they nailed down a way to serve their food fast. Doesn’t matter if it’s a Chipotle, Wendy’s, Subway, Fat Burger… Each one has their own method of ensuring that the food is served fast. To me it seemed like this place didn’t have any real organized and institutionalized plan how to ensure the customer gets their food fast and it wasn’t a priority for anyone in the place. It took over 15 minutes to get a falafel in a lafah breah. I appreciated the falafel being fresh but having to wait in a nearly empty restaurant for 15 minutes showed that there’s no respect for the customers time. Since this is the second restaurant with the same name and concept in LA – and the other one already exists for several years – it proves there’s no real plan how to make sure customers don’t spend too much time in the restaurant before getting fed.


The pricing is decent for middle eastern restaurants. Plates are about $11, Pitas $8-9 While it’s not expensive – I think they’re still 10% more than what will make them really competitive and allow them to take of. The woman at the cash register boasted on the fact they’re Kosher which indeed is a huge plus being close to La Brea and the Jewish ultra Orthodox district – but for the general audience it’s not a deal breaker. With so many options on Melrose – and even a highly competitive Indian lunch buffet almost across the street – I believe that $10 is the limit most people will pay for most fast meals. They might get people to come once and try them out – but in order to get repeat business – they need to lower their prices.


I was highly disappointed they served pickles made in brine and not Pickles in salt. For the non middle easterns reading this blog - to illustrate the difference - assume you're going to a Mexican restauran and instead of corn chips they serve you Cheetos and the waiter tells you it's the same...
Or assume you go to a Chinese restaurant and instead of fried rice they serve you french fries and tell you it's the same...
Get the point?
Every cuisine - has some elements that are a make or break and salted pickles are a must for an authentic middle eastern cuisine.

For many middle eastern food lovers- not having pickles in salt is a deal breaker and that’s why many middle eastern restaurants serve their customers unlimited pickles in salt with each order. Moreover – what made matters worse is they have a free pickled vegetable salad that doesn’t have pickles. I noticed everyone who purchased food after me took the plastic plate they give you to the pickled salad bar and noticing the lack of pickles – joked about it angrily and threw the plate to the garbage without taking anything. Hopefully that’s not the plan – but why would a restaurant want to anger it’s customers on something so trivial and so obvious? It’s a great way to lose customers who are fans of middle eastern food. Portions: I ordered a falafel in a lafah – a middle eastern version of a burrito. It usually costs more than a pita and is supposed to hold much more food. Perhaps other middle eastern restaurants have spoiled me, or perhaps it was just chipotle that made me aware of how much food can really go into a burrito. The falafel in a lafah I got was mostly rolled lafah bread and very little in it. Very few falafels, I didn’t feel the hummus and very few vegetables that made very little impact. The meal costs nearly $10 and for that price I felt cheated. Taste: The overall taste is good – but not spectacular and yet I must give them credit that everything tasted very fresh. The Falafels were hot and fresh, the pita was fresh. The hummus didn’t make any impact and they need to work on it and find a way to give it a much stronger point of view.

Final words:

I want to love this place. I ‘d love for Melrose to have as many middle eastern restaurants as possible – it would be great and I’ll be their biggest fans. Maybe I’m totally wrong – but based on my experience – I don’t think their target audience can only be ultra orthodox Jews who might or might not show up because of their Kosher sign. I think they need to cater to everyone. Families, hipsters and the many young people walking Melrose that are looking for healthy and cheap food. In order to get the general public’s attention this restaurants need to come down to earth and start making cheaper food, in larger quantities that’s in a family price range or else they’ll end up closing like other middle eastern restaurants in that area that have come and gone. Like any other new restaurant on Melrose at the beginning there will be a honeymoon between the locals and this place – as everyone always want to try out the new restaurants on the street. But whomever owns this place needs to show that his vision is not just graphics that present a large corporate style middle eastern restaurant but also the vision of a large corporation – with a big vision and real care for the smallest details. I hope they succeed and will keep all of you posted!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Taeem on Melrose

A few people have been asking why I haven't updated the Hummus blog for awhile and sadly, I must admit it's not because I haven't eaten Hummus - it's because all the Hummus restaurants I've tried lately have been awful. Truly awful. A few have even cause me to feel sick afterwards.
More and more new restaurants are popping across Los Angeles and yet it seems that their owners don't really have any love or respect for Hummus.

A relatively new place on Melrose Ave, Los Angeles is a small hole in the wall Israeli place called TAEEM- which means tasty.
They have cheap Shawarma Buritto deals for about $6 for a chicken Shawarma which is sweet.
But this blog isn't about Shawarma it's about Hummus ( and sometimes Falafel) as well.
I've tried this place a few times and as much as I wanted to like it - I didn't.

Both the Falafel and the Hummus were extremely bland. The Falafel had a very generic taste and the Hummus didn't taste fresh.
Moreover, the garbage bins were filled beyond full and the restroom I entered was dirty and disgusting.
I know a Hummus guide shouldn't be criticizing the garbage and the toilets - but I think that it is all connected.

Hummus is a passion and to make great hummus one needs to have a lot of discipline to continue striving for the stars and get the recipe just right.
Same with running a business and part of that - especially with a food business is to make sure it is all clean.

I talked for a few minutes with the owner of the place. He is very likeable and so I did visit this place 3 times to make sure I didn't fall on them on a bad day.
I visited them both during different hours of the day with always the same results.
It's a pity. 
I really am rooting for this place. I liked it's vibe. I liked it's pricing. I liked it's location. I loved it's low key attitude. I even liked the owner.

It's a new place and it can succeed cause there are a lot of people that would love great hummus in this area.
But to make great hummus - they need to invest more passion into the fine details.
They need to clean their act- as well as the store and need to try out more to get a much better hummus.

That said, unlike the various places I've gone to lately - I didn't become sick afterwards from the Hummus. So with the benchmark being dropped so much - I guess that's one point in their favor.

I am rooting for this place. So I will revisit it in the future and hopefully it'll get it's act together. It has the potential for greatness. Now all it needs is the Hummus ( and the Falafel)!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The new Sunnin

You can't go home again...
Or so they say.
Sunnin is an old institution in LA that's been around for nearly 20 years.
They used to be a hole in the wall place that had cheap pricing and gave a lot for that money.
But now they've grow. They've built a new much fancier place across the street and unfortunately while you do get more of a seating experience in the new place - in terms of food they seemed to have deteriorated.

I don't know what changed. I really don't. But something of the old fashioned magic is gone.
I ordered Hummus as a take away and for $6.00 - which is their basic price they gave me a tiny portion of Hummus in a take out box. 
What was that about? 
For $6.00 take away you can't just get the same amount of Hummus you'd get on a place if you were sitting there. 
Also, the Hummus itself was good but not great. It didn't taste that fresh and it didn't have that extra punch that the old Sunnin used to have.

I don't know what the story is. Maybe I just came there on a bad day - but the fact they moved to a bigger and nicer place should have motivated them to be better than the old Sunnin. They should have given more food for a cheaper price rather than give less food for a higher price - cause that's always the best way to eventually lose your core audience of Hummus lovers like myself that hate to feel they're cheated.

Since the Old Sunnin had such a good reputation I'll be back to the new Sunnin and hopefully they will improve. I'm hoping they will but one never knows.

Sunnin Restaurant:

1776 Westwood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90024-5646
(310) 475-3358

Friday, January 21, 2011

Great Hummus in Israel: Kibbutz Einat

In recent years a lot of new Hummus restaurants have emerged in Israel in a lot of new and untraditional places.  Here's one of the underground places that is known only to Hummus connesseurs.

Who would have thought that a great Israeli Hummus joint would be found in a Kibbutz. 
The "Jingi" - the Hebrew word for red haired - or freckled one, depending on how you understand it - is located in a tiny little joint on the outskirts of the Kibbutz.
The Jingi opens at around 8:00 am and closes at around 1:00 pm - or as his banner states - when the Hummus he made in the morning ends.
He wasn't joking. I came at 12:55 to get the last plate and at 1:00 pm a few people came and were told that they were too late. The Hummus joint is closed as he's run out of Hummus.

Funny that a Hummus joint closes exactly when people are starting to come out to eat Hummus. But that's the rule in this really great little place.

I asked the owner about this and he told me that he makes the Humus himself and has no aspirations to hand over his recipe to anyone else.
Not because he's afraid they will steal his recipe but because he thinks they won't make it as good as he does.

"You can double your money" I tell him - and he smiles and says - "So? " and continues " That's the problem with todays society. Everyone is so hungry for more. More land, more cars, more bling. More everything and at the end - only the drug companies make money - cause we're so depressed we can't eat everything we want that we take anti depressants to conquer our frustrations. I've only wanted to make Hummus" he tells me  and continues " And I sell only what I can make. Not one ounce more"

Looking at all the people who drove to Kibbutz Einat especially for his Hummus and were a few minutes too late - I realize he isn't kidding. He's not going to make more Hummus than he does.

The Hummus is wonderful and so is his Falafel but what was annoying to my colleague that came with me is that the options in this little joint are so limited. She wanted Hummus with Mushrooms but they didn't have it. They basically have Hummus and Falafel.
They didn't even have pickles on the side.

For those loving good Hummus - I highly recommend this place. 
The Hummus is awesome. Their Pitas are fresh and tasty. The falafel is superb and the owner is a great person to talk to about life and Hummus.

For those wanting more than just a basic Hummus plate and crave for all the extras of a full middle eastern restaurant - I think you need to look elsewhere.