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Taste Test Thursdays

Taste Test: Restaurant Hummus

Here's what D Magazine staff had to say about mashed chickpeas.

Yes, hello. I’m here today to talk to you about hummus. If you flip to page 377 in your “The New Food Lover’s Companion” book by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst, you can read along:

Hummus [HOOM-uhs] This thick Middle Eastern sauce is made from mashed chickpeas seasoned with lemon juice, garlic and olive or sesame oil. It’s usually served as a dip with pieces of pita, or as a sauce. When tahini (sesame-seed paste) is added, it becomes hummus bi tahina. Middle Eastern markets carry both forms in cans or jars or sometimes fresh.

Hummus is good. You know this. And if you don’t like hummus, then maybe you will enjoy this uncomfortable music video about hummus.

(I’m sorry. I warned you.)

I ordered five restaurant hummuses to the office today. My colleagues scooped the chickpea spreads with pita and then jotted down their thoughts. This is what they had to say.

The hummus:

A. Cafe Izmir

B. Kostas Cafe

C. Fadi’s Cuisine

D. Sevan G&G Cafe

E. Medina Oven & Bar

Tasting notes:

Cafe Izmir

I believe there is tahini in this and it really comes through nicely. The pita is … fine. Seems store bought. Bah, humbug. Get better pita and this is a winner.

Wooo! This one is garlicky. Smooth as silk, with a nice lemon zing, and totally voluptuous and delicious, but NOT something to eat on a date … unless, of course, you’re into that. (It’s almost more like an aioli, or that insanely garlicky Lebanese sauce toum.)

Light, creamy, a bit thinner than your average hummus. Pretty good, pretty good.

You know how some people’s houses have a strong, distinct smell that seeps into everything, so that even the ice tastes weird? That’s what this reminds me of. Office talk is suggesting it’s heavy use of tahini, but I like tahini and I hate this. It’s also runny.

This hummus was tangy with a little kick on the back end, just like Greek The Simpson’s voice actor Hank Azaria.

This had an odd taste at first. Almost like someone had just burped in your mouth. Once you get over that, it leaves a nice garlic-y aftertaste. Bread is nice!

Creamy, almost aioli-like texture and flavor. Consistency is too liquid-y for me, it feels like salad dressing. I’ve never said no to hummus, so I’d eat it again, but only if you literally put it right in front of me.

Kostas Cafe

This pita rules. But the hummus is ho-hum.

This pita is super oily and heavy – I’m not a fan. The hummus is somehow both watery and chunky, a little chalky and sour and very chick-pea-chalky. The duo is in odd couple.

This is real good. Garlic-laden with soft, pillowy pita. Reallll good.

I like this one so much more than the first. It’s strong on olive oil flavor. A solid, tasteful hummus and nice pita companion.

This hummus was thicker but a bit bland. The pita that came with it was nice and greasy, like Greek Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee.

Once I opened up the foil-encased pita, I knew I was going to like it. The pita is fluffy, perfectly cooked on both sides and was quite lovely. I wish I could say the same for the hummus.

This pita is divine; springy, chewy, fluffy. The hummus is a bit gritty for me, though. I ate it all, but because of the pita. The vessel shouldn’t be better than the dip, so this one wasn’t my favorite, ever, but it was my favorite of the bunch.

Fadi’s Cuisine

I like how acidic this hummus is. It’s bright. And the pita is great; it’s more like a pocket, which gives you two sides to pull from. It’s like getting a good deal. I would eat this in the front seat of a hummer.

I love the rustic look of this pita, which comes in full, fluffy founds and is a little sweet. Totally not the thin, flat, traditional. The hummus is thick and bean-y, with paprika dusted over it. Super traditional.

The pita is a bit like dry pizza crust, which ain’t a compliment. The hummus tastes sorta store-bought. Would I eat this? Yeah. I’d eat the hell out of it. But it’s the worst of the three I’ve had so far.

This is pretty bland. The pita looked pretty and puffy and tasty but it’s not that great. I think this would be good if you added a bit of spice or maybe served it with olives or something.

This hummus was classic and smooth with just enough flavor and a dusting of paprika, just like Greek Full House heartthrob John Stamos.

This bread had more of a crunchy and almost harsh feel. The hummus was good. Nothing great.

I really loved this pita. It was airy with a hint of crunch on the shell. The hummus was fairly good but could use a squeeze of lemon to make it more dynamic.

Sevan G&G Cafe

My pita fell apart. Which isn’t that big of a deal. It was a small piece. It sort of tastes like nothing. The hummus, however, was rich and covered in olive oil. It’s a hum-dinger of healthy fats.

If you were to take a paper bag, get it wet, then dry it out, it might taste like this flat, dry pita. The hummus is super-thick with tahini. Totally decadent. A little like eating straight tahini off a spoon, though.

I had high hopes for this one, because the hummus was swimming in olive oil. But you can’t detach the hummus from the cardboard-like pita. I mean, would I eat this if it were handed to me? Course I would. I’m no idiot. But it’s the worst of the four I’ve tried so far.

The hummus is super creamy and tahini-ful. The flavor is clean and rich, and I kind of like the thin, crisper pita.

This hummus was solid but had stronger olive oil taste. It was smooth but there was not much else to it, like Greek starlet of Friends fame, Jennifer Aniston.

I like this pita. The hummus was fresh but nothing out of the ordinary.

So bland. So boring. Like if your midwestern aunt tried to be adventurous and bring a Mediterranean platter to a party. Stick with the green bean casserole next time. This bread was like paper. Flavorless and sad. None of it was bad, just so very boring.

Medina Oven & Bar

This is a humble hummus and pita. The hummus is velvety and bold, and I love the give of the pita bread. It would allow me to dip more and not flop. It also kind of tastes like a flour tortilla. I respect this, and I like it.

This guy has some weird savory stuff going on. Are they using some other kind of bean? Like white bean? Hmmm. I feel like I’m eating Italian cannellini bean soup. And really I just want to add some rosemary. It’s fine, but I’d rather be warned.

This has some roasted red pepper vibes, and I like that.

This hummus has a nice texture and okay flavor, but the pita is kinda stale. Nothing to write home about.

This hummus smoky, consistent, with great flavor, like Greek 30 Rock star Tina Fey.

This hummus definitely has the most kick. Garlic and lemon portions were on point. I took the bread from B. and ate the rest of this hummus with it. It had a nice spice at the end.

This hummus has a sort of vegetable aftertaste that I didn’t love. I know that’s ironic because it’s made of plants, but whatever. It might be suited for someone else but it just didn’t do it for me.

Cafe Izmir 1
Kostas Cafe 3
Fadi’s Cuisine 1
Sevan G&G Cafe 0
Medina Oven & Bar 2

The winner is:

Kostas Cafe is the winner of this week’s taste test. There you have it. What’s your favorite hummus in town? Let’s discuss.

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