The Early Word: Yummus Hummus

The Baked Bulb, a gift from the Allium family.
The Baked Bulb, a gift from the Allium family.

What is it about tiny Brooklyn restaurants that yields superlative hummus? Tanoreen has long lured visitors to Bay Ridge with the promise of its silken, tahini-rich take on the Middle Eastern staple (which, since the restaurant's recent relocation and expansion, remains as good as ever). Since last summer, Mimi's Hummus in Ditmas Park has done its part to increase Q train ridership with its ethereal namesake creation. And now Yummus Hummus is doing its best to make Bushwick the latest destination for pulverized chickpeas.

The Fal-ini: falafel that's baked, not fried.
The Fal-ini: falafel that's baked, not fried.

Like Mimi's and the old Tanoreen, Yummus Hummus has the approximate dimensions of a telephone booth, but what it lacks in elbow room it more than compensates for in both atmosphere and menu items. The restaurant's large windows bathe both furnishings and customers in a mellow, golden natural light, which has the effect of making the wooden tables and chairs (all made from salvaged lumber) look unbearably handsome in an unassuming, Northern Californian sort of way.

The food has a similarly rough-edged, informal beauty: everything we sampled during a visit last weekend boasted vibrant colors and flavors, and beckoned with the allure of unfussy but thoughtfully prepared food.

We ordered the carrot salad ($6.50 for a large serving), the Baked Bulb ($7.50), and the Fal-ini ($8). Everything came with a gratis side of fresh-baked pita bread, which was served with some olives, gherkins, and cubes of feta cheese.

The hummus itself was wonderful, but what really made us want to swing from the rafters was the carrot salad. The carrots were either steamed or boiled to optimum tenderness, and spiked with a bit of cinnamon. The warmth of the spice was a perfect foil to the salty drift of feta cheese that buried the carrots, which were further adulterated with some chopped parsley. The whole thing was bright, invigorating, and no more or less than one of the most eloquent love letters ever written to root vegetables.

But onto the hummus, which was earthy, creamy, and altogether pretty damn fine. The folks at Yummus aren't stingy with olive oil and tahini, tributaries of which flowed across the hummus's surface. The Baked Bulb variety features a roasted head of garlic whose contents can be squeezed into the hummus and mashed up to make a thoroughly addictive spread.

The Fal-ini crowns a shallow pond of hummus with a trio of baked falafel that are in turn smothered with yogurt harissa jalapeno sauce. Deprived of their customary deep-fried shell, the falafel -- a coarse mix of chickpeas, cilantro, and onions -- fall apart easily, and work best spread across pieces of pita. They're spicy and satisfying, but will no doubt inspire withering scorn in falafel purists.

As for the pita, it emerges from the oven hot, fragrant, and chewy, and is more than up to the task of serving as an ersatz dining utensil. It hardens as it cools, but still, it's difficult to complain when it's smothered under blobs of hummus or mopping up puddles of olive oil and crumbs of feta cheese. And the olives, gherkins, and cubes of feta accompanying it are a nice touch -- they betray both a canny aesthetic sensibility and also the spirit of generous hospitality that pervades the restaurant as a whole.

Yummus Hummus 55 Waterbury Street, Brooklyn 347-984-6202

The carrot salad, obscured by feta cheese.
The carrot salad, obscured by feta cheese.
Plentiful pita.
Plentiful pita.

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