L.A. Chefs Are on a Mission to Master the Perfect Hummus

Forget pita, we’ll just eat these with a spoon

Ori Menashe, the chef behind Bestia and the soon-to-open Bavel, has spent the past three years perfecting his hummus recipe. He’s experimented with dried chickpeas from India, Canada, and Spain’s Andalusian coast (his favorite, and the most expensive), dabbled with various brands of Palestinian tahini, mastered a trick that involves sautéing the cooked beans in baking soda to soften their skins, and spent nearly $10,000 on a deluxe 15-quart food processor to ensure a properly whipped texture. “I’ve probably made 400 test batches,” he deadpans.

When Menashe’s Bavel debuts early next year in the Arts District, the Middle Eastern restaurant won’t be alone in redefining a dip that has long been relegated to the corner of a Zankou Chicken combo plate. Hummus, yes, hummus, is ready to play a starring role.

At Dune, the Atwater Village falafel shop with branches in downtown and Venice Beach, owner Scott Zwiezen lavishes his organic hummus plate with a judicious glug of olive oil, braised chickpeas, crunchy cabbage salad, tangy house pickles, and char flecked flatbread. Sqirl chef Jessica Koslow plans to offer a version at her forthcoming West L.A. restaurant, Tel, made with a tahini she crafts by boiling down avocado pits from JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch. The creamy white bean spread with salty black olives that Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson offer at Grand Central Market’s Madcapra might not be hummus in name, but it soothes the same way when scooped up with flaky Yemenite malawach. Sublime variations can be found at the Exchange inside downtown’s Freehand Hotel, the quirky Silver Lake hangout Mh Zh, and Hummus Yummy, an Israeli-inspired food truck with a Valley brick-and-mortar location on the way.

Why all the fuss over a dip that retails for a couple bucks at Trader Joe’s? “One scoop of great hummus changes the way you think about it,” Menashe says. “It’s like when you have amazing pasta in Italy made from three ingredients, and you say, ‘How is this even possible?’ ” Menashe, who spent his adolescence in hummus-obsessed Israel, hopes the silky spread at Bavel—simply served with warm pita and optional toppings like chopped chicken liver and stewed fava beans—will erase any memory of the stodgy stuff found in supermarket refrigerators.

Welcome to the golden age of garbanzo.

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