Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ali Karavan (Abu Hassan) Humus - Old Jaffa, Israel

I ate lunch at Abu Hassan (Ali Karavan) today in Old Jaffa, Israel. The restaurant is known for serving some of the best humus in Tel-Aviv but it is certainly not known for its ambience. This restaurant gives "fast food" a whole new definition. Or maybe it might be called "speed eating."

The place is quite small with seating for 25 or 30 guests. The tables are crammed together and they seat you wherever they can find a chair. You may be at a table with 4 or 5 other strangers but after all - you are all eating some great humus.

There can be quite a line-up to get in. As people get closer to the restaurant, waiting for a chance to sit down, they are literally standing over the patrons, waiting for them to finish so that they can find a place to sit down.

Once seated, the menu is quite simple - a bowl of humus and some pita breads. You can add "masbacha" (mediterranean spices) or some warm fava beans to the bowl and you get a side order of some raw (yes, raw) onions and a lemon-pepper-oil mixture. You also get a fork and you can order a drink but you won't get any napkins. Fortunately there is a sink with running water.

The wait staff scream at each other to bring out the orders. The food is thrown (or slapped) onto the table in front of you seconds after you are seated.

There is no take-out no matter how long the line gets. Rumour has it that when there was take out, people would congregate in front of the restaurant eating and would block traffic.

The place is quite loud (between the diners and the yelling staff), not particularly clean and has a very rushed feel. On the other hand, the humus is quite creamy, fresh and tasty and it is not very expensive. I'm not sure I would call it the best humus I've ever had. Raanana has a "Humus Bar" which serves humus that is every bit as good - and has a much more civilized feel (and Humus Bar is kosher...)

Overall, this was certainly a real middle eastern experience and one worth trying out, though probably not one that I'd like to have too often.

Abu Hassan is located at 1 Dolphin Street in Old Jaffa, Israel.

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