Habayit

Great balls of flavor: Habayit's falafel platter

Great balls of flavor: Habayit’s falafel platter

Subtly smoky: Baba ghanoush, with pitas, fries with, and schug (a spicy dip)

Subtly smoky: Baba ghanoush, with fries, pitas, and schug (a spicy dip)

Nosh-ville: Olives, with pickled horseradish and cabbage

Nosh-ville: Olives, with pickled horseradish and cabbage

Even if you are looking for it, Habayit (11921 Pico Blvd.) is hard to spot, a strip-mall sliver near the 10 freeway. Yet this Glatt Kosher Israeli establishment works wonders with some of the staples of Middle Eastern cuisine. (Thanks again to the L.A. Times for the tip.) Our meal tonight began with a nosh of pickled cabbage and horseradish served with green olives—all fresh, tangy, and not too salty. For an appetizer we had baba ghanoush, a mild and subtly smoky eggplant dip better than any we have experienced in recent memory. Then came our entrées, a pair of falafel platters, which included hummus, tehina, a chopped tomato and cucumber salad, and wonderful hot-from-the-oven pitas. In lesser hands, the salad might have been bland, but the freshness of the ingredients made it flavorful and refreshing. Though the hummus was hard to distinguish from the creamy and slightly bitter sesame-based tehina, they both provided an ideal dip for the falafel. As for those familiar fried balls of mashed chickpeas and spices, Habayit has found a way to give them a golden crunch on the outside while keeping them moist on the inside. With its reliance on freshness and care rather than fat, salt, and garlic, this unpretentious eatery reminded us that sometimes the best vegan meals can be found in places where the word never appears on the menu.

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