I recently had the opportunity to eat at this really nice Kosher Mediterranean joint over on 1st Avenue between 57th and 58th for a press dinner.
The restaurant is simply and elegantly decorated with white table cloths, white textured wainscoting on the walls, and a patterned tin ceiling. Wide glass windows open out to the sidewalk along 1st Avenue to give the restaurant an airy, street-side feel without the hassle of being on the sidewalk, in the sun, or bumped by passers by.
There’s a private room in the back for parties and events, which can accommodate about 20-25 people. The restaurant also offers daily happy hour specials, as you can see from the chalkboard below:
Although they are not yet open for lunch, they do offer a brunch menu on weekends.
Chef/owner Sam is a young man of 25 years, but he’s been working in kitchens and learning the trade since he was 15, via his father. He spent time running a restaurant in London before he opened up shop here in NYC just six months back. He keeps a small, skilled team by his side, and he runs the show on everything from the apps through desserts. Yes: he even makes all desserts in-house. Pretty impressive for someone so young. He’s truly a skilled chef, and the meal demonstrated to me that he can cook anything and cook it well, to boot.
Whenever I dig on Kosher food, I’m typically apprehensive, because I always feel like a restaurant will have to sacrifice something in the flavor department in order to satisfy the Kosher dietary requirements. That is NOT the case with Hummus 21. Everything I sampled here was incredible, and I tried a lot of stuff from the menu, as you’ll see below. Everything was fresh, well balanced, light and healthy. The short summary is that I would definitely eat here again, and again, and again.
Tables are set with a nice bottle of olive oil and some fresh olives for snacking, and the wine list features a variety of nice selections from all over the world, including a great Israeli pinot noir and a light rose.
First, we sampled four types of hummus with some fresh pita bread.
The first was topped with white tahini, olive oil and toasted pine nuts. This had a very creamy, traditional flavor to it.
The next one was topped with Moroccan style chicken, tahini and a chimichurri sauce. This was probably my favorite of the four. Each bite offered a dynamic range of flavors and textures.
The third was my next favorite, which was topped with a spicy jalapeno sauce, garlic, cilantro and olive oil. Absolutely delicious. I can eat it all day long!
The last hummus selection was topped with whole chic peas, tahini and some lemon juice. Really nice pop from the lemon.
Our next items were golden-brown falafel footballs. These came with a really nice green dipping sauce. They were perfectly cooked: crispy on the outside but still flavorful and juicy on the inside.
This next dish was beautifully presented – an appetizer sampler with six different items:
First was a lentil kofta: a lentil cake fried with chic pea flour. This was probably one of my top three selections of the night. It was so tasty, light and crispy.
Next was the bureka duo. One was filled with potato, and the other with mushroom. These reminded me of knish, only very tasty and with a nice, flaky puff pastry and sesame crust on the outside.
Third was the kibbe, which was ground, spiced beef battered with wheat flour and fried to a golden brown crisp. These were amazing. I could easily see these selling like wild if they were served on a stick from a food cart or food truck. Could be the next big craze to sweep the city!
The dolma (grape leaves filled with basmati rice) had a slightly sweet note to them, and were drizzled with tahini sauce. Very good.
Next was briwat, aka Moroccan beef cigars! These were like spiced beef egg rolls, only not greasy, and very light and crispy.
Last was this Israeli chopped salad, which was comprised of tomato, cucumber, onion, parsley, olive oil, lemon vinaigrette and mint. Very refreshing, and a great way to cleanse the palette before the main courses come out to the table.
For the entrees, we sampled three plates. First was Mediterranean red chicken: boneless chicken thigh served on a sizzling skillet with both sweet and hot peppers, cilantro and onion. This was really juicy and flavorful. Perfectly cooked, it was probably my favorite item of the night.
The second entree was sen’ya, which is a 50/50 ground beef and lamb mixture, formed into a patty and grilled, topped with tahini, and garnished with roasted pine nuts and a side of couscous. These were great; and that means something coming from a meat aficionado such as myself. I instantly started thinking of how amazing this would be if served on a bun with some lettuce, tomato, and tahini sauce: like a Mediterranean burger. The char on the patty was so perfect. It added a great texture to the outside, and the inside had such a unique flavor combination of Mediterranean and middle eastern spices. Highly recommended.
Last was a rice and lentil dish with tahini sauce, topped with fried onions and served with a spiral cut salad of carrot and cucumber, which was lightly pickled and flavored with lemon.
Sam had stepped up his game with each item that came to the table, so I wasn’t surprised at the quality of the food when the desserts came out. Everything was beautiful, unique, and delicious. First was kadaif, a Lebanese vanilla soy cream cake served on top of shredded filo dough and drizzled with tahini. This was my favorite of the desserts. It was cold, crunchy, creamy, and sweet, with just a hint of salt that made all the flavors jump out.
My next favorite was the traditional baklava. This was executed perfectly. It was light and not too sweet or drenched in honey, as so many other baklava desserts can be. I loved it.
This malabi custard had a light vanilla flavor, topped with shredded coconut and rose water sauce that really made it stand out as one of the most unique items of the night.
The chocolate molten lava cake was rich and decadent, and came with little wedges of homemade halva, which I was excited to see! I used to love it as a child and I hardly ever see it anymore these days.
Our host ordered a Moroccan tea, which comes presented in a beautiful pot with a really fancy little cup. Very nice!
So that about does it for Hummus 21. I hope you guys get a chance to check this place out. If you’re like me, and you don’t follow any sort of Kosher dietary restrictions, I promise you will still love the food here. Everything is absolutely delicious.
HUMMUS 21 IS CLOSED