How the Arts District restaurant Bavel managed to survive COVID and produce a new cookbook

Lamb neck shawarma at Bavel. Photo by Nicole Franzen.

With the pandemic waning, Bavel in LA’s Arts District has once again become one of the toughest restaurant reservations to get. It’s known for its spin on Middle Eastern cuisine with an LA flare. Think oven-roasted lamb neck shawarma, hawaijj roasted cauliflower with a creamy serrano dip, and rose clove chocolate donuts. 

Bavel is the second restaurant from the husband-and-wife chef team Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis. But unlike their first — Bestia — the couple says Bavel is something they were “born into.” 


Husband-and-wife chef team Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis own Bestia and Bavel in downtown LA. Photo by Nicole Franzen.

Menashe is Israeli. Gergis’ father emigrated from Egypt. Bavel is a refined take on the food they grew up with. A lot of Bavel’s recipes, and some of the couple’s own, can now be found in their new cookbook based on the restaurant. It’s called “Bavel: Modern Recipes Inspired by the Middle East.


Hummus and pita bread at Bavel. Photo by Nicole Franzen.

Hummus
Makes 6 cups

“Achi bo lenagev hummus!” That’s a phrase you’ll hear every day throughout Tel Aviv as lunchtime approaches. It translates loosely to, “Brother, let’s go wipe hummus,” something that in Israel is as much an activity as a meal. Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital of hummus, and is home to hundreds of hummuserias, casual cafés where they serve warm plates of fresh hummus and masabacha—a chunkier variation—along with pita and a spread of cold mezze. The very best of all is a little shop in Jaffa called Abu Hassan. It’s fucking amazing. People line up all day to get a seat at this place, and then you’re in and out in fifteen minutes. The wait is worth it for what, in my opinion, is the best hummus in the world. When I opened Bavel, I told myself, “I’m not putting hummus on the menu if it’s not as good as Abu Hassan’s.” That was my bar, and I think I got pretty close.

The hummus we serve at Bavel is not complicated; it’s just about using good ingredients and not adding too much other stuff to compromise that quality. Fresh tahini, high-quality garbanzo beans that aren’t too old, fresh garlic, lemon juice, a little bit of cumin—that’s it. I use less tahini than you’ll find at most places, so you can really taste the garbanzos, and in the end, the hummus is silky, rich, and the closest I’ll ever get to having Abu Hassan in Los Angeles.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • garlic cloves, grated with a Microplane
  • cups cooked Garbanzo Beans (see right)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin 1⁄2 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons reserved garbanzo bean cooking liquid from cooked Garbanzo Beans 
  • 1 1⁄4 cups raw tahini paste
  • 1⁄4 cup tahini (page 67) for serving 1 tablespoon olive oil for serving
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice for serving
  • 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked, for garnish
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon paprika for garnish

Instructions 

-To make the hummus: In a small bowl, add the lemon juice and garlic and let sit for 3 minutes.
-In a food processor, add the garbanzo beans, the lemon juice and garlic mixture, salt, cumin, and citric acid. Puree this mixture for 5 minutes, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the garbanzo bean cooking liquid in a steady stream while blending.
-Continue to blend for another 2 minutes after the liquid has been added. This will aerate the puree so that it becomes light and creamy. Turn the food processor off and add the tahini paste. Blend for 10 seconds; turn off and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then blend for 10 more seconds.
-Let the hummus sit until it reaches room temperature. Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
-When ready to serve, in a shallow bowl, add 3⁄4 cup of the prepared hummus in a flat layer. Then, while rotating the bowl, use the back of a spoon to spread the hummus up the sides of the bowl to create a large well in the center. Add the tahini to the well and top with the olive oil and lemon juice.
-Garnish with parsley and paprika.

Credits

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