A healthy supper in a bowl, just the way you want it
This three-month-old East Cambridge place, with its cement floors, blond-wood chairs, wood-grain topped tables, and detailed recycle instructions, is industrial-stark. Tahaza Hummus Kitchen, near CambridgeSide Galleria, follows the latest trend of supper in a bowl, offered cafeteria-style, in which you ask for various components as someone builds a meal to your specs.
You decide whether you're having a hummus bowl ($9.25), grain bowl ($9.25), salad bowl ($9.25), or wrap ($8.75), which all contain hummus. Then you pick a protein, and finally toppings and dressing. If you choose a bowl or a salad, you get a thick smear of hummus — the classic unflavored, roasted red pepper, or beets — which is pressed around the sides of the bowl with a spoon. Then everything else is piled in, quite carefully.
A particularly satisfying bowl starts with regular hummus, adds brown rice, lamb with chickpeas ($2.25 extra), beets, carrots, and spicy harissa dressing. The harissa is delicious, but you also need a little lemon-mint dressing in the bowl. The lamb is tender but not saucy enough, the brown rice perfectly cooked, and the hummus lovely, as it should be in a place that uses the name. Bowls are put together assembly-line style by two people. A woman is as cheery as can be and can't do enough for us. The gentleman beside her looks put out if you ask for two kinds of dressing or have a think while you choose the toppings.
I typically avoid flavored hummus, but both the beet and the red pepper are nicely done, and in both instances, add more color than taste. The restaurant's website says the kitchen makes hummus from soaked chickpeas several times a day.
Shredded chicken is saucier, ideal in a wrap with the hummus and crunchy vegetables. Beef ($2.25 extra) is meltingly tender but not that flavorful.
Hummus goes with falafel in an age-old way, but this version of the chickpea fritters, which are oven-roasted, is so disappointingly dry that you have to slather the balls with dressing and crunchy toppings like cumin carrots, cucumbers, and shredded beets.
Bowls come with a mini whole-wheat pita, which is warm and light, or a packet of pita chips, which can be seasoned and crisp, as they were on one visit, or unadorned and undercooked, as they were on another.
The restaurant is owned by Emily DeBonis, 31, who lived in London for a year, traveled on the continent, and saw many fast-casual restaurants offering hummus. She made up the name Tahaza, which is meant to sound like tahini. Everything at the place is compostable (food, packaging, bowls, lids, cutlery, napkins), and picked up by Bootstrap Compost. Your job is to stand at the counter that explains what goes where and figure it out (good luck!).
One Canal Park is a building on First Street near the Sears end of the Galleria, so you can buy a dishwasher and get an inexpensive, healthy meal all in the same block. Bring the family. Even fussy customers get to choose exactly what they like.
TAHAZA HUMMUS KITCHEN
One Canal Park, Cambridge,
857-259-6960, www.tahaza.com. Wheelchair accessible.
All major credit cards.
Prices Bowls $8.75-$9.25. Hummus to-go $3. Pita, pita chips, carrots $1.
Hours Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
What to order Original hummus, beet hummus, red pepper hummus, brown rice, lamb with chickpeas, shredded chicken, cumin carrots, lemon-mint dressing, spicy harissa dressing.