Simply Hummus is roughly two and a half metres wide, but a hummusiya (a hummus bar), like the ones found across Israel, don’t need much space.
“In Israel, everyone has a hummusiya they swear by,” says owner Yoash Dvir. “It might be in an alley behind a curtain, or in the market. They’re everywhere.”
Like the Israeli eateries, this Darlinghurst venue has only one dish: a plate of thick, delicious hummus served with a single turmeric-laced pita. There are a couple different toppings – like impossibly light falafel balls, spicy tomato salad, fennel seed and maple syrup-caramelised onions – but Dvir wants keep the menu simple and authentic.
The limited offering means getting the star ingredient right is essential. When I ask Dvir what makes a good hummus he says I just opened a Pandora’s box. Some people like more lemon, less lemon, no garlic, smooth or chunky in texture. Each person has their preference. I like it on the sour side [and] a little smoother than what I make here.”
To perfect his recipe he made 40 iterations and had friends taste test until they settled on one. It’s nutty and a little bit sweet, served spread on a small plate with a sprinkling of good za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice mix) around the edges, tahini in the centre and there’s a drizzle of paprika-laced olive oil on top.
Dvir soaks nine-millimetre chickpeas overnight until tender. He gets his tahini (made from toasted ground hulled sesame) from a Lebanese supplier in Auburn, in Sydney’s west, and infuses his olive oil with an ingredient he won’t divulge. Lastly, cumin, salt and lemon are added.
What about garlic? His eye twitches. “Garlic is a big debate here,” he says. “I like it more garlicky than what I make here, but people didn’t like it.”
Dvir says changing the Australian perception of hummus is hard. “It’s a huge challenge to convince Australians that [it’s] a dish, not a dip,” he says standing to fetch a plate of hummus and pita, determined to convince at least me.
He sets the plate down, rips a piece of pita and shows me how to dip. The motion is called l’nagev (to wipe) and involves a deft flick of the wrist making something like the shape of a comma.
“A professional hummus eater will finish this plate with just one pita,” he says. “And a real professional will eat it with raw onion and a spoon. A super professional though? They’ll have it with cold beer,” he says.
As if on queue, two young Israeli guys come to the shop and before going inside one points at our plate and says, “The best hummus.” His friend says he’s going to find beer. They’re clearly professionals and will only need one pita.
Even though I try to scoop as much hummus as I can, when I finish my pita, I’m still left with more than half of it. Eating it with a spoon feels like I’m breaking the rules but I persevere. By the time I finish I’m convinced – hummus can be a dish, not just a dip.
393 Liverpool Road, Darlinghurst
Mon to Wed 11am–3pm
Thu to Sat 11am–3pm, 5pm–late
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on May 20, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.