Hummus Kitchen

Friday nights can be so hard.¬†Any meagerly worthwhile restaurant is certain to be packed. And what’s left simply isn’t that great.

hummus kitchen mazze trio

mazze trio

This past Friday night, we intended to go to Toloache, a renowned Mexican restaurant, on 50th Street. It was five to seven, and the place was already hopping. Every table was filled. I had made a reservation for later that evening, with the hopes that they would seat us early (a bit of gaming of the reservation system, yes). No dice. We stood around the bar area for about 10 minutes before I decided we should jump ship.

To Ninth Avenue, we trekked, and popped in one subpar Mexican place after another to see if they had any tables open. “It’ll be about 15 minutes,” we were told, and I wasn’t having any of it. We stumbled upon Hummus Kitchen, and I asked MDP if anything on their menu looked good. He gave a tentative nod, and we went in.

The first thing that struck me about Hummus Kitchen was the smell of the place. It reminded me of Petco. MDP said it’s the nature of the food they serve; that is, a bit musty. I wasn’t so sure about his assessment, and found myself distracted by the kibble odor that permeated the air.

hummus kitchen chicken kebab

chicken kebab

But I pushed aside my misgivings and dove into the menu. Hummus figures prominently across the board, with options for appetizer and entrees. We decided to try the “mazze trio” with falafel, babaganoush and, of course, hummus. MDP wasn’t fond of the green-tinged innards of the falafel. “I’ve noticed that I don’t like the green falafel,” he told me. I thought it was okay, and its dipping sauce was fairly tasty, but I especially favored the smoky babaganoush. It was superb. If you’re going to try any one mazze at Hummus Kitchen, cast aside the hummus for the babaganoush. That’s not to say the hummus was bad. No, it was fine, but the babaganoush is exceptional.

For my entree, I ordered the chicken kebab, which came with couscous and an array of chick peas, potatoes and other vegetables strewn around the plate. The chicken itself was fantastic, so tender and flavorful. And I loved the saffron-colored couscous that lay like a bed for the vegetables to rest upon. I was quite pleased with my dish.

MDP opted for the Chraime Moroccan fish. He said it tasted just like broiled fish, and not much else. His dish came with couscous also, and he finished it all, so it must have been decent enough.

Whenever we go to any Middle Eastern restaurant, we must try the baklava for dessert, so we did at Hummus Kitchen. Drenched in honey, the baklava was split into two triangular halves, with much of the pistachio and walnut filling dominating the dish. It was acceptable, but nothing like Wafa’s, which is the end-all and be-all of baklava in my book.

So, if you’re in a bind for a Friday night meal and you happen to be in Hell’s Kitchen, you might want to try Hummus Kitchen. I wouldn’t recommend it as a destination dinner place, however.

Hummus Kitchen

768 Ninth Avenue (between 51st and 52nd streets)

Hell’s Kitchen, New York

Take the C/E to 50th Street and walk west to Ninth Avenue. Walk north for a block and a half.

Wafa’s: A Dream

When I read about Wafa’s in New York, I knew I had to go there. I trust New York‘s food reviews more than any other in the entire world–much more than Yelp’s attention-deprived diatribes and certainly more than any place Time Out New York might recommend. You see, both Yelp and Time Out are largely indiscriminate. New York (Adam Platt, Robin Raisfield, and Rob Patronite, to be exact) clearly has taste, which is why I rely on it for restaurant recommendations.

Wafa’s, dishing Mediterranean and Lebanese cuisine, is a small place on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills, Queens. Humble and unassuming, the flavor is big at Wafa’s. BYOB is its policy, but luckily there’s a liquor store directly next door.

We started with some grape leaves and babaganoush. Stuffed with rice, onion, parsley, and tomatoes, the grape leaves were average in taste. They lacked something–flavor might be it–but were served in generous proportions. They gave us at least six grape leaves for our order. Though they paled in comparison to the babaganoush, we devoured them.

Wafa's Grape Leaves

wafa's grape leaves

The babaganoush stole the show, however. Prepared with grilled eggplant, the babaganoush had a rich, smokey flavor. Small chunks of eggplant dotted this otherwise very creamy dip. Moustache is one of my favorite Middle Eastern restaurants, but I am certain that Wafa’s babaganoush gives it a run for its money.

Wafa's Babaganoush

wafa's babaganoush

As an entree, I ordered the Lamb Shawerma sandwich, which was chock full of tangy lamb, turnips, onion, lettuce, tomato, and tzatziki sauce stuffed into a light pita bread. It was pretty delicious, but I still think that babaganoush was better.

Wafa's Lamb Shawerma

wafa's lamb shawerma

My dining partner ordered the vegetarian platter with fried cauliflower, hummus, and falafel. He’s a big fan of falafel and decidedly enjoyed Wafa’s nicely spiced rendition. The fried cauliflower was delectable, and hardly smelled or tasted pungent (as cauliflower many a time does). Wafa’s hummus is mild: light on the tahini, tasting of chickpeas and lemon juice. He couldn’t believe how full he felt after dinner. “Chickpeas are filling,” I reminded him. (I learned this from the menu at the Hummus Place.)

Wafa's Vegetarian Platter

wafa's vegetarian platter

Last but certainly not least, we sampled the baklava for dessert. When I say this is one of the best desserts I’ve ever had, I mean it. The crisp filo dough was layered with walnut/pistachio filling (I thought it was walnuts, but MDP suggested pistachios). Lightly drizzled honey covered the top layer. It was to-die-for–and nearly impossible to eat with a fork. We both ended up eating the baklava with our hands.

Wafa's Baklava

wafa's baklava

You don’t need to take my advice about anything I write here on this blog. However. I implore you: ORDER THE BABAGANOUSH AND BAKLAVA. You won’t be sorry. One day later, I’m still lost in a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean reverie that is Wafa’s. Try it out some time.