When it’s hot, you crave lighter fare, served in a breezy environment. Nothing too rich but humming instead with bright flavors and healthfulness. So modern Hamsa in Rice Village, a lovely modern setup with a hip soundtrack of Tel Aviv pop, is right on time this summer. Emanating from the Israeli masterminds of Doris Metropolitan steakhouse and Badolina bakery, it joins an exciting foodie scene emerging in the neighborhood also home to year-old Gratify, the beloved and newly expanded Sweet Paris Creperie & Café and, coming soon, Navy Blue from Aaron Bludorn and wife Victoria Pappas.
Lovers of Middle Eastern cuisine will find many of the gastronomic touchstones they expect on Hamsa chefs Sash Kurgan and Yotam Dolev’s compact menu — hummus, skewers — but with twists. Hummus, for example, may come Shakshuka-style, topped with an egg soft-poached in spicy tomato sauce. Or, then again, it may arrive piled with caramelized onions, pine nuts and cubes of roasted lamb. Other shareable starters include beef tartare with pomegranates, runny egg yolk and aioli — and the utterly guiltless cauliflower couscous with cranberries and almonds offered up on a plate lined with creamy, tangier-than-yogurt labneh.
Mains include the most appealing chicken shawarma ever — chunks of juicy chicken thighs cooked in lamb fat, which you mix with pickled veggies and tahini and stuff into fluffy fresh-baked pita — and grilled branzino, which is butterflied, grilled till the skin is crispy and delicious, and served atop a snappy, sweetly herbaceous fennel salad. Desserts are beautiful, as in the pink-hued, architectural, lightly rosewater-infused Basboosa Malabi cake, and the grilled pear served in a cardamom-scented syrup made from its own cooking liquids.