ENGLEWOOD, N.J. -- Giyora Malka is always looking to keep things fresh at Hummus Elite, a kosher restaurant that made a name for itself off a popular menu combination of soups, salads and, of course, hummus.
“When I built the restaurant, I said, ‘I don’t want a freezer because I want it fresh,’" Malka said.
For the most part, everything is made at the restaurant daily, including the soups and meat dishes.
Malka says the extra effort shows. “At least that’s what I hear from our customers.”
This time of year, soups reign supreme, especially red bean soup. There’s also white bean soup and harira lentil soup that’s available once or twice a week. The latter is the kind he grew up with in Israel with his parents, who still live there.
And although he was trained at the French Culinary Institute and worked at New York City hot spots such as Sushi Mambo and Union Pacific, he went back home to learn from his mother before opening Hummus Elite.
He still regularly calls her for advice. He has to, because it seems she always “forgets” to share something.
“When she explains [a recipe] to me, it never comes out the same,” Malka said. “She will always will keep a few ingredients from me. I’m not sure why she does it. It’s the joke of the family. She keeps a few ingredients out.
For a Moroccan fish dish, he said it took him about seven years to get the entire picture from his mother.
Now, he says, he uses FaceTime to show her how he’s cooking something or to see how she does something.
“There is something in the way we grew up,” he said. “It’s in the soul and the heart of everything she puts into cooking. I want to believe that she passed some of that on to me.”
In the name of trying to keep things fresh, Malka, 45, who lives in Leonia with his wife and two children, regularly tries new dishes. Some work, some don’t pass muster with the staff and don't make it onto the menu.
He also plans to do some renovations in the next two to three months to the 11-table restaurant, which seats about 34 in the winter but can double in size during warm weather with another 10 tables outside.
Malka said he plans to change the floor plan, color scheme and lighting.
“People like to see change,” he said, adding that he appreciates it when other restaurants make similar efforts.
One thing he wants to keep is the sense that everyone is welcome. “One of the things I like about this restaurant is that we get people from everywhere, not just Jewish people. I really enjoy that.”