The pandemic has shrunk our worlds. But it has opened our hearts to the places closest to us.
In the past two months, I have ventured farther than nine blocks from my front door exactly once. I don’t own a car. I’ve been lucky enough to work remotely. And, while friends and colleagues decamped for vacation properties or relatives’ homes, I have been stuck in my Brooklyn apartment.
Except I haven’t felt stuck. As the fear and frustration of living in the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic settled over New York, a fragile source of joy emerged for me: my own neighborhood.
Ditmas Park is a small, residential slice of Brooklyn known for its colorful Victorian houses. In the past, I had an abstract sense of gratitude for living in a neighborhood that is safe and clean and walkable. Now, that sense is almost physically palpable. The aimlessness and repetition of my near daily walks has forced me to pay attention in ways that I never did on my commute to work as a Wall Street Journal editor.
Places I never noticed suddenly feel essential. The Italian restaurant I’ve visited a handful of times is an open-air market—stocked with tiny cartons of strawberries and loaves of oatmeal sourdough that feel like a gift. On Albemarle Road, a wide, tree-lined median has become a sliver of park, full of socially distanced families and dog owners.
Modern Middle Eastern restaurants are easy to find across New York City these days. But Mimi’s Hummus, which opened here in 2009 before spawning Manhattan outposts, remains one of the best. The hummus, capped with softened chickpeas, spiced, sautéed mushrooms, or a tomato-and-eggplant stew, is ethereally smooth and rich without any lingering heaviness. Other must-tries include the gently caramelized roasted cauliflower with garlicky tahini, and the Iraqi pita, called sabich in Israel, which jumbles fried eggplant, sliced boiled egg and potatoes, shredded cabbage, and dollops of smooth tahini and the tangy pickled mango sauce amba into an overflowing flatbread pocket. Brunch brings several delightful takes on shakshouka, including one that pairs the eggs poached in rich tomato stew with spicy lamb merguez sausage, and another that swaps the familiar tomato base for braised Swiss chard and sheep’s-milk feta.
Brought over from Sephardic Jews from northern Africa, shakshuka has become a staple dish in Israeli cuisine—and a brunch favorite at restaurants, Middle Eastern and otherwise, across the U.S. In the dish, a rich tomato saucespiced with cumin and cinnamon serves as the base for poaching eggs until they’re just set. Here, Mimi Kitani of the beloved Mimi’s Hummus in NYC offers her recipe, which she serves at the restaurant with house-made pita.
Middle Eastern food is becoming quite the trend here in NYC! But, do you really know who serves the best and most authentic around? I sure do! It’s called Mimi’s Hummus located in the East Village on E 14th between 2nd and 3rd!
For six years, the Jerusalem-born chef Mimi Kitani resisted putting falafel on the menu at Mimi’s Hummus, her namesake restaurant on Cortelyou Road in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. She wanted people to try other dishes, drawn from her family’s roots in Morocco and Iraq, and to stop thinking of falafel as the epitome of Middle Eastern cuisine.
For six years, Mimi’s Hummus has been hiding out in Ditmas Park, quietly serving some of the city’s best hummus and shakshuka. This summer, owners Avi Shuker and Mimi Kitani will take a big leap across the East River and open two Manhattan outposts, one in UrbanSpace’s forthcoming Vanderbilt food hall near Grand Central and another solo restaurant on East 14th Street.
Mimi’s Hummus When your brunch requires some balking of tradition, Mimi’s Mediterranean flare strikes the perfect balance with both lemony hummus made from either chickpeas or fava beans for you, and Moroccan semolina pancakes for your less adventurous companion.
Amazing—some might say sad—the way today’s elite athletes are turning into food snobs. If you saw the so-called “Sports Sunday” section in the Times the other day, you know what we mean. On page one: an on-the-road piece about a chef for a Tour de France team from Colorado. Inside, an account of Los Angeles Angel Vladimir Guerrero’s mother, who, on game days, cooks Dominican for her son the gastronome and his fussy colleagues. And that’s not all: Another mouthwatering story, entitled “From Israel to the NBA, but Missing the Hummus,” told the tale of six-foot-nine, 225-pound Omri Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the NBA, who, although excited to join the Sacramento Kings, wondered whether moving to the United States would mean he might starve to death. “[Good] Hoom-us,” he said, when asked what he’d miss most about leaving Tel Aviv. “You don’t have that here.”
The newest of these hummusiot also happens to be the best.
Mimi’s Hummus opened in February on Cortelyou Road, the Restaurant Row of Ditmas Park.
The tiny square shopfront is sunny and airy, with only eight tables. Perforated wood planks, swooping up to the ceiling, are a clever update of Middle Eastern latticework. The owner, Mimi Kitani, is Israeli, but her mother grew up in Morocco and her father in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Culinary traces from each country surface in her well-edited selection of small plates.