Family-run restaurants have a certain charm that can’t be replicated simply by serving the best food or employing the most attentive staff.
When a restaurant has that magic “family” ingredient the results can make a memorable dining experience, especially when coupled with the other two.
Memorable, is indeed the word I’d use to describe my recent lunch at Asli Hummus, a popular, bustling eatery in Jaffa, founded 60 years ago by Elias and Mazal Shviri. Having immigrated to Israel from Lebanon and Morocco respectively some years earlier, the young couple opened the now-iconic restaurant on Kedem Street, Jaffa, before relocating to Yafet Street a few years later.
Little did they know back then that, six decades hence, their restaurant on Yafet Street would still be feeding both locals and those who had traveled from further afield to enjoy their Lebanese/Moroccan-inspired dishes, which have been lovingly passed down the generations.
A restaurant still thriving after 60 years
Today, their grandson Elias, named after his grandfather, runs this little gem of a restaurant with the help of his father and his young son, who, in keeping with family tradition, both share the name, Avi.
Having grown up on Lebanese and Moroccan food, Elias takes these flavorful Middle Eastern cuisines a step further and incorporates them into his new summer menu that combines traditional Mediterranean flavors with dishes from his childhood.
Happily, despite being in Jaffa, parking wasn’t a problem as the restaurant is on the outskirts of the city. We managed to park nearby and found the restaurant nestled under the arches of one of the original buildings.
With his grandfather’s photograph hanging on the wall in pride of place, watching over the hustle and bustle of this quaint little restaurant, Ariel goes about the business of meeting, greeting, and serving his customers, ably assisted by his father and son. Together, they greet their customers with warm, smiling faces, and outstretched arms. Even passersby pop their heads in to say hello to Ariel and his dad who treat everyone around them with kindness and generosity (I watched as they left the restaurant and rushed outside to help an elderly gentleman who was struggling to walk).
We were shown to our table by Ariel, who proudly introduced us to his father and son, before posing for a photograph with his delightful boy.
Before we even had time to peruse the menu, our table was groaning with a wide assortment of salads.
For those who aren’t familiar with hummus restaurants in Israel, the first course often comprises a wide assortment of all-you-can-eat salad dishes. While they all broadly follow the same basic formula, some restaurants do this better than others: Asli hummus is undoubtedly up there with some of the best I’ve tried.
Their homemade hummus was also fabulous and could be enjoyed plain or with various toppings including tehina and Turkish salad; fava beans; matbucha; labneh; pine nuts; and meat.
The homemade falafel was superb too – light and fluffy – delicious eaten on its own, or together with hummus and salads inside a pitta pocket.
When it came to the piece de resistance, the main course, we asked Elias to surprise us – and we weren’t disappointed.
Having had a well-earned, albeit short breather while some of the salad dishes were cleared away, we tucked into lamb skewers and beef kebabs, served with majadra and fries. The lamb was tender and succulent (I made a mental note to order it when I visited the restaurant again with my children, who would love it there) and the meat kebabs were utterly delicious.
After all that, it’s a wonder we had room for the desserts and coffee which appeared on our table at the end of the meal: malabi, the traditional Israeli milk pudding, reminiscent of creme brulee, and baklava. These Middle Eastern sweet treats rounded off our lunch perfectly.
As we sat there, relaxed, happy, and stuffed, the restaurant started to fill up again, signaling our cue to relinquish our table and go home.
One thing’s for sure – we’ll be back!
Asli HummusYefet Street 73Tel Aviv-YafoTel (03) 681-3435 (booking advisable) Prices start at NIS 25 pp for the all-you-can-eat salads. Children’s and business menus availableNot kosher – open on Shabbat
The writer and her husband were guests of the restaurant.