From the outside, The Hummus (18090 Collins Ave, Sunny Isles Beach, FL; 305.974.0031) looks like it might be just another of the trendy hummus houses that have popped up all over NY in the past few years (my favorite being Hummus Place in my old ‘hood). With a sign above the door that says “Fresh Hummus, Healthy Proteins” and the emphasis is on the nutritional value of the chickpea, this newly opened niche player is aimed at a vegetarian and health-conscious clientele.
Walk in, and there is a bright friendly Miami vibe and a distinctive Israeli feel. The color scheme is apple green (or, what I personally call Kate Spade green) from the walls to the chairs. The A/C is on, but the door is open to let in the breeze just a block off the Atlantic in this strip mall (location might not be ideal, especially being perpendicular to Collins, but that’s kind of par for the course here in Sunny Isles, and this aint South Beach). And of course there’s a bar with high stools, wifi, and a laptop browsing Ynet (English version here).
I wasn’t sure what to order and stared at the menu in English and Hebrew on the wall for a few minutes, finally querying, “hummus shakshuka?” at this combination of familiar favorites. Alon, who I would soon learn is the owner-chef, said that it is their specialty and to the best of his knowledge, he is the first person to put these two dishes together. That was enough to convince me to try it along with some lemonana (lemonade with nana, fresh mint).
I felt perfectly comfortable walking in, dropping down my backpack, and plugging in my computer. Before I was even able to log on to the free wifi, setting up to do a little work out of the beating-down sun, Yael the waitress, set down several small dishes: pickles and marinated olives with lemon rind, radishes and onions, and seasoned toasted pita. Admittedly, I mainly nibbled on the pickles and olives.
When my steaming hummus shakshuka was ready, Yael looked at my table already scattered with my papers and laptop and said, “Eh, there’s no place for your food,” and I promptly moved my bags over and pushed my computer to the edge. She serves everything up with a sweet but no-nonsense, “B’seder?” — Is everything OK? — and the patrons nod, already too engrossed in their food to mutter much more than a grunt and a simple non-verbal cue and a smile.
I started by dipping the fresh pita, crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, into the center of the plate, scooping up some slightly runny egg bathed in a spicy tomato and pepper sauce. A great shakshuka reminiscent of what I’ve eaten in Tel Aviv. Eventually I made my way towards the outside to hummus, mixing it with a bit of the sauce, another good combo, essentially a fresh, warm, dense hummus with matbucha. I couldn’t finish everything on my plate, and brought home nearly a pint of hummus and sauce which my family later devoured.
When my snapping pictures of all the food (including standing on chairs) made it clear to owner-chef Alon that I was more than a mere hummus consumer, he insisted that I try some falafel – refusing to take no for an answer when I explained that I was already quite full.
I passed up a full order…
… but did accept the filfil (singular of falafel) that he had fried up special for me.
The falafel crust was uber crispy – the way it’s supposed to be (not baked the way that Chickpea in NY does it) — without being greasy. When I commented that the falafel was green the way I like it — Alon, eager to share his love of food and recipes, explained that there are two types of falafel: Egyptian which is completely green and made from fava beans, and Lebanese which is yellow and made purely from chickpeas. He said that most Israeli falafel is a mixture of both fava beans and chick peas, and that’s how he makes it. I had actually always thought that the green color came from parsley and other spices.
While I could had no room for dessert, I couldn’t resist one final picture of a gorgeous malabi, an almond pudding, covered with rose water sauce, that one of my neighboring diners ordered.
While there is a familiar and homey feeling to the restaurant, I did stop short of asking my neighbor if I could grab a spoon and taste his dessert, so unfortunately I can’t report on how the malabi tasted.
The restaurant was a bit empty when I arrived around 11:30, but as I sat working on my computer, there was a rush of quick business lunches and beach picnic-ers around noon. And after a short lull, business really picked up around 2 pm with many families drawn in by the colorful and relaxed atmosphere, grabbing a late lunch, and several pre-shabbat snackers munching at the bar.
As a newly opened restaurant, there are some minor kinks to work out. A few diners seemed annoyed at the delay in getting checks promptly just before closing, coming up to the register rather than waiting for at their tables. But the staff, seemingly committed to ensuring that service quality remain high,was firm but pleasant in leading the customers back to their tables and bringing checks within moments.
The Hummus does a few dishes and does them well, reaching beyond the kosher customer. Overall, the food, atmosphere, and friendliness take the best of Israeli dining and culture and transplants it to the area of Miami that until recently was known as “Little Tel Aviv.”
Notably, The Hummus is open from 11 am – 3 am, or “until we run out of hummus” Sunday-Thursday, until 3:30 pm on Fridays, and 1 hour after sundown on Saturday night. I would suggest calling to confirm Saturday night hours. The restaurant is under the supervision of Kosher Miami.
As I was sitting in the The Hummus, there was mostly Israeli music playing in the background, including the band Shotei Hanevua (“Fools of Prophecy”) whom I had first heard when my dance company in New York performed to their song “Kol Galgal”…
… and then I later bought a few of their CDs. Below is one of the songs that was playing in The Hummus the afternoon when I visited.