With pale wood paneling, recessed green and blue tiling, and lighting that dims as the night progresses, Nanoosh’s atmosphere is far from that of most Israeli hummus joints. This is, after all, Manhattan’s upper west side, just a stone’s throw from Lincoln Center. But the restaurant’s Israeli owners have ensured that the neighborhood’s residents and theater-goers can get hummus Israeli-style, as a main meal rather than just an appetizer served with triangles of pita.
There are some twists on the menu to appeal to the American palette. You can get your hummus topped with sauteed mushrooms, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, chicken, or beef, and you can add sides of fresh veggies for dipping. If you’re health-conscious, you can substitute whole wheat pita for the traditional white pita (carb counters beware, though: even the whole wheat loaves seem thicker than what is usually served in Israel). And if a whole bowl of hummus just isn’t your thing, you can order a wrap or warm up with a cup of soup.
Concessions to American tastes are also evident in what is not on the table at Nanoosh. Rather than receiving a olives, pickles, and hot sauce upon arrival, you need to request these sides (free of charge). The paper take-out menu I saw included “hummus with fava beans,” but this was X’ed out in the restaurant’s full menus, suggesting that upper west siders just aren’t into ful. I’m not surprised – much as my taste for hummus has matured, I’m still not a fan of ful either.
I stumbled upon Nanoosh last summer during one of my visits to the library at Lincoln Center, and it easily satisfied my craving for some nourishment after a long afternoon of research. What could be better than hummus after whetting my appetite with videos of dances by Israeli choreographers?
I perused the menu for a while, debating whether to stick as close as possible to tradition or try one of Nanoosh’s innovations. Ultimately I went with the unadulterated hummus and allowed my American side to come through with an order of baby carrots and whole wheat pita.
Though I missed the pile of warm chickpeas customary at my favorite Tel Aviv haunts, I loved this smooth blend artfully topped with olive oil and spices. Much better than the typical American pre-packaged hummus, and a tasty reminder of my new home!
Visit Nanoosh’s website, and if you’re in New York City, you can get a plate of fresh hummus at 2012 Broadway, between 68th and 69th streets.
About our guest author: Dance historian Deborah Friedes became a devotee of hummus while studying Israeli contemporary dance. She writes about her ongoing research on the Dance In Israel blog.