Grub/Spirits Restaurant Reviews — 17 November 2010
A Restaurant Review: Hummus Kitchen

Hummus Kitchen
1613 2nd Avenue at East 84th Street, Upper East Side, (212)988-0090
768 Ninth Avenue at West 51st Street, Hells Kitchen, (212)333-3009
Getting There: 4,5,6 to 86th Street; 1 to 50th Street-Broadway

Hummus Kitchen provides a fantastic setting if you are looking for a healthy and affordable night out.  Surrounded by a litany of eclectic restaurants on the Upper East Side, and partially hidden by the construction work on the 2nd Avenue subway line, the brightly lit red & white sign can be difficult to see.  But inside is both warm and inviting, with the exposed brick interior lining each of the small number of tables the restaurant seats.  But where space may be short, the generous portions provide a value for both your stomach and your wallet.

Upon entering the small eatery, there is no hostess stand and the waitresses simply guide you to grab a table nearby.  Part of the place’s character lies in the restaurant’s diminutive size- it feels like an intimate setting for a dinner, even if the cuisine is not necessarily posh, considering most of the eating here is done with your hands.

Glancing over the menu, the most expensive item is $13.95 (Seni’ya- a traditional stew of ground beef and lamb, served in a pan with Majadra rice), which is a sight for sore eyes in a city full over overpriced food that typically under-delivers.  We skipped over the soup & salad portion and headed right for the Mazze menu, or the starters.  At $9.50, the Mazze Trio gives you the option of any three items from the Mazze menu.  The falafel (fried greens and chickpea), roasted cauliflower, and babaganush (broiled eggplant and tahini paste) are all recommended here.  The portions are generous for an appetizer and are priced at $3.95 each by themselves, so the trio delivers tremendous value while letting you sample different Mediterranean dishes.

While the Mazze’s were a great way to begin our meal, the Hummus is what brought us out- and Hummus Kitchen has no shortage of options.  From your standard chickpea ($6.95) to Egyptian ($7.95- topped with fava beans, tahini, and olive oil) to versions topped with either chicken or sirloin ($9.95), they are served with warm, thick pita bread that is replenished upon your request.  We decided on The Hummus Kitchen ($8.95), which encompasses the best of all worlds- four mouthwatering plates of different hummus- chickpea, mushroom, tahini, and Egyptian.  The chickpea stood out as the creamiest and tastiest of the four, but each one was distinctly different and all four flavors worked together, cooling the warm, fresh pita as we dipped, bit, and double dipped.

We’d be remiss if we failed to mention the platters and wraps portions of the menu.  The platters feature savory offerings like kebabs, chicken and vegetarian cous-cous, and a chicken schnitzel- a bread crumbed, thin, fried chicken breast served with a mound of vegetable cous-cous.  The Laffa secion, or  Mediterranean wrap features only three styles, but they are full-size and are quite a mouthful.  In fact, we had to pack most of the Moroccan wrap ($8.50) in a doggy bag.  The wrap is filled with roasted chicken hummus, a mild harisa sauce, and cucumbers, and had almost a Mexican flavor to it as the orange juice squirted out of the bottom of the tasty tortilla.

Hummus Kitchen is a special place that doesn’t necessarily set out to be.  The interior is relatively modern but serves as a backdrop for the delicious fare, as it should be.  Affordable, healthy cuisine, with fantastic service, that has you leaving with a full belly?  I think I’m ready for seconds.

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