Hummus was around during ancient Egyptian times. Cleopatra was probably hand-fed the stuff between grapes while men fanned her. So how is it that after thousands of years of practice, so many eateries prepare crappy renditions of the simple dish?
Locally, you can find plenty of spots that need new hummus recipes. You can also find perfection. We match up local Greek favorite Mykonos on Coral Way and Books & Books in Coral Gables.
Mykonos is owned by Greeks and has been around for more than 30 years. The eatery's street sign is spelled in Greek-style letters. Inside, a stark white décor with splashes of blue hues is reminiscent of the eponymous tiny island. Yet when we visited recently, the hummus tasted generic, not authentic. It was bland, prepared with an overpowering amount of tahini, and left a chalky aftertaste. The dish looked like mashed potatoes and came with soggy pita pieces that were too flimsy for scooping. Lemon juice is a required ingredient, yet the hummus was garnished with a lime wedge. (This could be a plus, but we mention it because of the other failings.) To top things off, two pathetic-looking olives sat above the lime and formed a creepy smiley face. We've had great food at Mykonos, but this was simply an unacceptable rendition of a classic.
Gables landmark Books & Books serves a far better version of the Middle Eastern classic. One recipe is used at all the locations (there are five now, in case you haven't been paying attention). Though the bookstore wouldn't release the recipe, a spokesperson said its hummus is prepared with chickpeas, cumin, olive oil, tahini, and lemon juice. It's powdered with paprika, topped with green and black olives, and sits in a shallow puddle of light, fresh olive oil. It is creamy and thick. A freshly pressed fan of pita slices surrounds the chickpea mountain. The spread has a well-balanced taste and is prepared fresh twice a day.
1201 Coral Way, Miami
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Books & Books
265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables
927 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach
9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour
(The other two locations are in the Caymans and Westhampton, New York.)