Battle: Who Does Shakshuka, Baba Ganoush and Baklava Better, Beni’s or Hummus Elijah?May 20, 2018
Beni’s Falafel and Hummus Elijah have both made waves with their excellent Levantine offerings—and from their names alone, you get a clear idea of their respective specialties. Both restaurants have more of that, though; peek through their menus and you’ll find other gems like baba ganoush (the traditional roasted eggplant dip), baklava (the multilayered, filo pastry- and nut-based confection), and shakshuka (the classic breakfast dish of of eggs poached in tomato sauce). The question is, who does which dish best?
Round 1: Baba Ganoush
Beni’s: Beni’s version of the eggplant dip hovers closer to traditional versions. It’s served cold and flaunts a more velvety texture (likely from having a larger proportion of tahini), with just enough goopiness from the pureed eggplant in the mix. Though lacking in tartness, you get a great balance of creaminess and smokiness that makes it easy to down plain, even sans pita.
Hummus Elijah: Hummus Elijah’s take could not be further from Beni’s (or from other versions we’ve tried, for that matter). It’s served warm, seemingly baked right from the casserole accommodating it—resulting in a dry (and slightly crusty) top and a creamy interior that’s notably thicker than Beni’s, yet uniquely mousse-like in consistency. While it’s less creamy than Beni’s, it’s still rich in such a way that tastes “fried”. What follows through is a more intense dose of flavor: more smokiness, a bit of pungency, and a good, lemony tang for balance. As the overall impact is stronger than Beni’s, a single serving goes a longer way.
The Verdict: Both excel in their own respective styles. But with its more potent flavor and one-of-a-kind texture, we’ll have to give it to Hummus Elijah on this one.
Round 2: Baklava
Beni’s: The classic pastry is made in-house here at Beni’s. It shines for more than that reason, though; each bite offers a marvellous balance of taste and texture. Consistently crisp and flaky, it has none of the sogginess many other versions tend to exhibit—even on the bottom layers, which are just soaked enough in syrup without losing their integrity. For the nuts you get what looks to be almonds and walnuts; and while the syrup is dominated by strong buttery, honey-like notes, it’s surprisingly not too sweet when combined with everything else.
Hummus Elijah: Hummus Elijah’s, on the other hand, is outsourced. It sadly pales in comparison, with a one-dimensional sweetness and a relatively soggier bottom that tastes more of margarine than butter. A milder-tasting blend of what seems to be peanuts and cashews form the nut part of the equation—though it’s a plausible variation in theory, it fails to add depth or complexity to the already flat-tasting profile of the other components.
The Verdict: Hands down, Beni’s baklava reigns supreme.
Round 3: Shakshuka
Beni’s: We had high expectations for Beni’s version, which was met with high acclaims (even scoring an award from Esquire) back when the falafel joint was new. The sauce isn’t bad; though not the most photogenic (with some of the egg whites seemingly having curdled against the tomatoes), it’s properly tart, slightly sweet and earthy (likely from onions) and just mildly spiced (seemingly with cumin). But in all our revisits from the past year, we’d consistently be met with dry, rubbery egg yolks that are clearly overcooked.
Hummus Elijah: Hummus Elijah’s is served in a miniature skillet, with a clearer contrast between the eggs and its surrounding deep red sauce. The said sauce has bigger chunks of tomato, seemingly from a can (which is not a bad thing) mingling with what seems to be roasted red peppers. It’s tangy like Beni’s, and though milder on spices, you get a more concentrated depth not unlike a good, long-cooked, Italian-style pomodoro sauce. While the yolks still aren’t as runny as we’d like, it’s significantly less-done than Beni’s, thus pleasing our inner egg porn-hankering selves.
The Verdict: For visual presentation and taste, we’ve gotta give the award to Hummus Elijah.