A Striking New Houston Restaurant That Harkens Back to Tel Aviv
Direct from Tel Aviv to Houston, the exciting new Middle Eastern restaurant Hamsa is the brainchild of the trio who founded Sof Hospitality — Itai Ben Eli, Sash Kurgan and Itamar Levy. The modern Mediterranean spot, which just opened in Rice Village, is next door to Sof’s wildly popular bakery Badolina and not far from their first meaty endeavor in Houston — the chophouse Doris Metropolitan on Shepherd.
Hamsa is named for the palm-shaped talisman of protection, peace and prosperity that’s seen here on small plates, presumably as a sign of the tasty things to come. Hamsa also means 5 in Arabic (see the new restaurant’s address). Lindsay Madrigal of LM Designs designed the chic dining room, where warmth envelops with terracotta-hued walls and upholstery that casts a flattering glow.
The tables are set upon a scattering of Turkish rugs, while one wall is papered with bright blue-and-white Ikat and displays a collection of hand-thrown Moroccan pottery. Moorish arches, which call to mind those found in Jerusalem, anchor the bar, while a row of olive trees delineates the dining and cocktail-drinking areas.
Chefs Kurgan and Yotam Dolev serve elevated classics that blend the fare from Middle Eastern and North African countries such as Morocco and Tunisia into a cohesive, approachably priced menu. Begin your feast with salatim, a selection of small, cool salads and dips meant to be shared (five for $15, seven for $20, all 11 for $25). Standouts include the squash tahini, baba ganoush (eggplant), cool labneh (a soft cheese made from strained yogurt, spiced and drizzled with olive oil) and Amba pickled vegetables. All are served with pita warm from the hearth.
Then there are the hummus selections.
“Hummus is to the Israeli people what barbecue is to Texans,” Ben Eli says. “We will drive for miles and stand in line for hours to get what is reputed to be the best hummus anywhere, and when they run out, they don’t make more until the next day.”