The Jew And The Carrot

Toronto's First Hummus Joint Is Stellar

By Michael Kaminer

  • Print
  • Share Share

In a market in Acco years ago, Ezra Braves told me he had “one of the greatest food experiences of my life:” A lush bowl of hummus, topped with hot chickpeas, and serves with peppers and olive oil. “It was perfect, simple, and interesting,” he says. “When a chef makes something delicious out of so few ingredients, there’s more talent in that than in very elaborate haute cuisine.”

The experience stuck with him — as did his cravings for great hummus. Rather than return to Acco, Braves decided to recreate that memory in his native Toronto.

S. Lefkowitz, named for Braves’ grandfather, opened last month in a rough-hewn jewel box of a space with old-fashioned lettering in the window. Hebrew letters painted on the glass proclaim S. Lefkowitz’s “hummusia” (the city’s first dedicated hummus spot), and a line below cheekily declares it “The Hummus Institute of North America.”

Sharing a low-slung block of Dundas Street West with hip boutiques and cool cafes, S. Lefkowitz replaced Braves’ popular Ezra’s Pound coffee house. “I’d been working on my own hummus recipe for 15 years,” Braves says. “I thought, I’ll finally open a hummusia in Toronto — it’s never been done. But after looking for another location, I realized I could do it in one of my cafes.”

Hummus, of course, has long transcended its roots to become a mainstay on menus; in New York alone, fast-food places like Nanoosh, Hummus Place, and Taim offer “authentic” renditions, while more intimate eateries like Balaboosta, 12 Chairs, and Zizi Limona bring more personal spins to the staple.

None that I’ve sampled compares to S. Lefkowitz’s sublime product — served warm with sweet peppers and pillowy pita, it’s slightly grainy, vaguely nutty, and lusciously creamy. Mine came topped with house-made harissa, which added subtle, spicy notes. Braves serves six varieties including hummus topped with meat or olives. If your only exposure to hummus has been store-bought product in plastic cups, Braves’ lush, rich rendition will come as a revelation.

“It starts with organic chickpeas,” Braves tells the Forward. “And extremely high-quality olive oil, and extremely high-quality tahini. Even the salt’s important. Most hummus is made with iodized table salt. We use French sea salt. When you’re only using six ingredients, salt has impact on the hummus.” The restaurant also makes its own labneh, using yogurt from a small Ontario farm. Soft drinks, in flavors like lemon and ginger beer, come from UK-based botanical brewery Fentiman’s.

“The core menu’s consistent, but everything else we make as we get inspired,” Braves says. “Hot sauces, condiments, and pickles are all things we’ll do depending on the season and whim, so they’re not all available all the time. Right now, we’ve got pickled beets and turnips.” This summer, Braves plans to sell house-made spreadable halva.

S. Lefkowitz hasn’t forsaken its roots as a café; Braves’ crew still cranks out superb coffee drinks. “I’d taken out the espresso machine, and then thought, ‘What am I doing?’ he says. “I think any time you go to a restaurant, you should be able to have a spectacular espresso. In general, restaurants overlook that last detail. But we have clients who’ll come in for coffee in the morning and return for hummus later in the day.”

But not too late. The restaurant’s hours, according to its website, run from 11am-6pm, “or until the hummus is gone,” which is likely, according to Braves. S. Lefkowitz is producing more than 200 cups daily, “and we sell out every day,” he says.

“Hummus is ubiquitous now,” Braves says. “I’ve just tried to perfect it.”

Photo: Michael Kaminer


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: s lefkowitz, hummus toronto, hummus, ezra braves

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.