Huda Aldisi spent 18 years in the kitchen at the Metairie Road location of Mediterranean chain Byblos. At her new restaurant Hummus & More, Aldisi offers a broad, all-encompassing Mediterranean and Middle Eastern theme with a familiar menu, some of which feels toned down to cater to Western palates.
The menu draws from several countries that hug the Mediterranean, ranging from Greek-style moussaka to Lebanese
za'atar manouche and Turkish baklava. The unassuming strip-mall storefront belies the white-tablecloth atmosphere inside. This could be any mid-range Metairie restaurant were it not for the faint sitar music playing in the background, bottles of Greek Metaxa and pomegranate liquor lining bar shelves and the cobalt-blue nazar dangling near the entrance.
As the name implies, any meal can start with hummus and spreads served with warm pita bread. Hummus is thick and creamy, dotted with deep pockets of olive oil, and garlicky baba ghanoush carries the characteristic flavors of char and smoke. Both are successful renditions of classic dishes, but the pita is stale and tastes like it was bought at a grocery store.
Forest-green tabbouleh is heavy on parsley and light on bulgur, appearing more like a topping or garnish rather than a standalone side or salad.
Aldisi, who hails from Jordan, includes several dishes from her homeland, including mujadarah, a thick and warming lentil stew that carries deep smoky notes and offers the warmth of a cold-weather dish.
There are several instances where the kitchen strays from more traditional dishes as if to appease less adventurous palates, and the effort comes off as gimmicky. Nachos are constructed with pita chips. Egg rolls are filled with cream cheese, feta and Monterey Jack and flavored with flecks of oregano and finely diced onions and arrive bursting at the seams, served with sweet and tangy pepper jelly sauce. Both dishes feel at odds with the rest of the menu.
Where shawarma are concerned, gyro and beef options are better choices than the chicken, which is dry and not well spiced. Shaved slices of gyro meat were greasy but packed the dominant flavors of lamb and oregano.
Fish fares better. A special of swordfish kebabs was excellent — a reminder that the sturdy fish is practically made for the grill. Paired with charred onion slivers and wedges of juicy green bell peppers, the firm fish tasted fresh and was lightly dressed with a drizzle of olive oil and splash of lemon.
For dessert, baklava encased in flaky phyllo dough offers a classic version of the sweet pastry, made dense with walnuts, decorated with pistachios and sweetened with honey. It carries a hint of orange and cinnamon and is not as dense as others.
Despite a few missteps, Hummus & More is a welcome addition to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dining scene and serves as a broad selection of dishes representative of the region.