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Oren's Hummus Shop in PA

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We finally got a chance to try Oren's - I keep thinking the name is Oren's Hummus Hut - Hummus Shop on University in Palo Alto this afternoon. Some things were very good, others not so. Two adults, two children and a baby - we ordered a decent and representative chunk of the menu.

Hummus classic plate - very very good hummus garnished with olive oil, paprika, and a bit of tahini sauce in the middle.

Vegetable kebab - I was dubious about this one, but we ordered it anyway and it was fantastic. The chunks of eggplant were particularly good and they nailed a perfect amount of char on the red pepper.

Israeli chopped salad - little cubes of cucumber and tomato, herbs and a tart dressing. Just delicious (and too labor intensive for me to make at home so I am happy to find it at a restaurant).

Babaganoush and Romanian eggplant - I liked both of these quite a lot, Smooth and savory. The Romanian eggplant dip had fire roasted red pepper in it. V. tasty.

Chicken kebab - this was fine. The chunks were a little tough on the outside but edible.

Tabouli - It looks like it is made with quinoa which I find weird. I only got a bite, it didn't blow me away.

Falafel - Very crunchy, but small, super oily, and pretty tasteless. They should look north a bit and copy Mediterranean Delite in San Carlos. These should be really good and they are not.

Lemonade - home made lemonade with fresh mint. I was envisioning/hoping for something like Holy Land's blended delicious slushie of a drink. Instead, it is an overly tart, very strong lemonade with fresh mint sprigs. My two juice-deprived children each took a sip and then left it alone. It comes out of a big jug on the counter, rather than being made fresh for each customer.

Pita - My husband was delighted that they offer whole wheat pita. This is where your pita preferences come into play - I like thin and chewy pita. This was thick and very very soft; underbaked in my opinion.

Service - Fine. Not mega-personable, but fine. A waiter checked back in with us regularly. Crayons for children were a nice touch.

Venue - cute and stylely. Noisy. The hours are great; it is open until 12 every night.

I think I'd go back and order just the salad, kebab, and hummus. I do like that they have lots of vegetable side dishes. It is a nice way to round out an order.

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  1. Tart lemonade is not a negative thing in my opinion. You can add sugar for kids, but for adults, a tart lemonade is refreshing. In other words, if the owners are reading this, don't muck with the lemonade.

    3 Replies
    1. re: urbavore

      Well, I think you should go try the lemonade and see what you think. I like tart lemonade too, but the juice to water ratio is off so it is very strong in addition to being really tart. Plus it tasted like it had been sitting a while, the aromatics that I associate with fresh lemon weren't there. For my taste, it wasn't very good, but obviously opinions vary.

      I don't mean to sound like a jerk of a reviewer, but water, simple syrup and lemon juice shouldn't be that tough to balance well. I'm always excited to see lemonade on a menu and ended up not loving this particular execution.

      1. re: YSZ

        Tart lemonade is better when served french style with simple syrup tableside.

        1. re: bbulkow

          I've also had lemonade in Italian and Vietnamese restaurants that have been very tart. Lemonade isn't always a child's drink. Unfortunately, I've been to a couple of places that served tart lemonade and then, later on, served an overly sweet concoction in clear response to customer expectations.

          You specifically mention your kids not drinking it, which makes me think you expected the sweeter American version of lemonade--i.e. a kid's drink.

    2. I'll agree about the hummus. Really, really good. An Israeli colleague raves about it, and while I'm no expert on the finer points of hummus, I found it delectable.

      Like others here, I have to disagree about the lemonade and the pita. We got a mix of whole wheat and regular, and I thought the regular was excellent. And the lemonade was nearly as good as Holy Land's in my tasting. Not too tart at all. Maybe they have adjusted the recipe? Or maybe its a matter of taste. But I would question trusting a child's pucker reaction here. Kids used to other lemonades would probably find Oren's too tart. Nothing a bit of sugar wouldn't fix. Me, I like it the way I had it.

      The falafel were small and crunchy, which was unexpected and new to me. But I didn't find them tasteless at all. A nice textural contrast with the baby-bottom smooth hummus. I like Holy Land's better, but their's would be hard to beat.

      1. This place is a find. Tasty, healthy food for reasonable prices on University Ave. How about that. I like eating like this.

        We had the beef kebab, which I actually didn't get to before it was all eaten. My wife thought it was a bit overcooked, though.

        The rest was top notch. We had the hummus with fava beans (foul), the beans of which may not have been fava beans. Whatever it was, it was great, a generous portion, light and creamy with a great taste and texture balance with the beans and pureed hummus. BTW, the hummus is pureed, so if you prefer it with more of a food mill sort of texture, you won't find it here. I tend to like that texture, but this was so creamy that it more than made up for it.

        I'm not a fries person, but the sweet potato fries were delicious and crispy on the outside without tasting that greasy. Same goes for the felafel. The sides of beets, Romanian eggplant and the Moroccan tomato dish (can't remember the name) were very good. Best of all of those dishes may have been the complimentary cabbage that we got when we sat down. The all you can eat pita bread didn't do much for me, but I'm not much of a pita bread fan or eater, so I didn't really care. I'd hope for a chewier bread that suits my tastes more, but that's outside the normal bounds of the cuisine, I think.

        I didn't try the lemonade, but look forward to doing that. Tart won't bother me. On the contrary, I like it that way.

        The downside was the almost hilariously bad service. It's not that anyone was rude, it's that there was barely any service at all. Tables didn't get cleaned, water and menus didn't appear in any reasonable time frame, the asked for and promised set of condiments (harissa, garlic oil and the like) never appeared at all. Nor did my requested refill of the cabbage that I was told would be coming.

        Still, as one who likes this sort of food, both as middle eastern style dishes and clean, homemade, organic ingredient, not so starchy sustenance, it was a big hit. I'll be back soon.

        1. Had a chance this afternoon to stop and try Oren's Hummus. Perfect time of the day: 3:00 pm - place almost empty - peaceful - perfect...

          I had the "Triangle Hummus", it's garnished with a spoonful of favas (actually ful/fool) and the most tender, flavorful whole garbanzos ever along with a swirl of lovely olive oil, a sprinkle of paprika and some chopped herb (taste buds were overwhelmed so I couldn't tell if it was cilantro or Italian parsley). Simply the best hummus I've ever tasted. Silky smooth texture I found totally beguiling. So different from the mass-produced products.

          The complimentary cabbage salad and the green harissa condiment wake up the appetite.

          I liked the mint lemonade - it looked like a Mojito and I like tart, not sweet things so this was just what I wanted.

          I liked this place. I don't believe there is anything else like it in our immediate area so I appreciate it just because it isn't the same old, same old. I'm looking forward to sampling more of the menu soon.

          There's quite a bit of free parking around the corner (depending on the time of day).

          Oren's Hummus Shop
          261 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

          2 Replies
          1. re: RWCFoodie

            Finally tried Oren's and it was as good as described here. That's just about the best hummus I've had anywhere. I got the triangle, and while the favas and garbanzos were very good, next time I think I'll just get the classic to revel more in that awesome hummus. The pita is soft and thick. The complimentary cabbage salad made a fine starter and the mint lemonade was very refreshing. Service was fine at Sunday lunch - maybe they had some startup problems that have since been ironed out?

            I'll have to go back to try out the falafel and other good things on the menu!


            1. re: mdg

              Tried this place out the other day. The hummus was unique - much more smoother than some of the other hummus brands in the area (e.g. hummus guy, east/west bolani). I liked it quite a bit and definitely would go back if i was in the area.

              I actually like the pita - soft and thick, quite chewy. If you dont like this type of pita (if you like it "crustier" or thinner) , dont try it. otherwise, very good.

          2. Based on this thread, I popped in and grabbed a container of hummus to go. I was a bit disappointed. Though the texture was wonderfully smooth, it tasted bland to me. A squeeze of lemon helped. They gave me a bag of 5 pitas for free -- not sure if the spacey girl at the counter was being nice or just ...spacy. They smelled wonderfully yeasty but again didn't taste of much. Maybe I just prefer more strongly flavored food. At least it was very quick in and out -- pretty empty at 3PM.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Glencora

              I went a couple weeks ago for the first time, based on this thread. I also thought the hummus was bland, until I added the free delicious harissa-like hot sauce they have around. The hot sauce comes in a pair of red and green. I found the red hot sauce pleasantly warm and flavorful, and the green hot sauce too hot for my weak palate. The hummus was great, post-hot sauce.

                1. re: artemis

                  I still have lots left. I'll try hot sauce. (Though all I have is Mexican...is that too fusion-y?)

              1. We tried Oren's Hummus Shop Fri 12/9/11. It's on busy University Ave, it's one dining room that can only fit 49 people max. Place gets very noisy during the dinner rush Fri night.

                FREE pickled cabbage to start - tiny dish full. I liked it fine.

                FREE tap water - carafe brought to each table.

                We ordered:

                Pita bread - wheat or white? I think wheat is a tiny bit better, but both are good. Comes w/ side of hot green harrisa sauce & red chili garlic sauce. Both tasty, I liked the green harrisa sauce better. Red I found too salty.

                Chicken kebab entree comes w/ 2 sides $11.95. B. liked the chicken said it's dark meat. He picked rice (not good he said) & hummus (he liked).

                I got:
                Classic hummus $7.95 - big bowl of creamy hummus w/ olive oil drizzled in the middle. I liked it.

                Cup of garlic tomato soup (not on the menu) - we each got a cup & liked it. I wish it was served hot, mine was kinda barely warm.

                3 sides for $6.25: I picked
                Tabule - i liked it
                Baba Ganush - good
                Matbucha - skip, nothing special.

                They have Israeli Pastries - mamul/rugalach/snowballs. Saw some ready to buy containers $9.95 in the back. Also has babkas & challah loaves. Most of the dips can be bought to-go.

                Two unisex bathrooms in the back.

                4 Replies
                1. re: hhc

                  wow. when people mentioned the "thick" pita i was not envisioning anything close to what you have in your 2nd picture.

                  is there a hollow pocket inside or is that all bread?

                  1. re: drewskiSF

                    it's a hollow pocket inside, very tasty stuff! You can buy it to-go. They take credit cards too.

                    1. re: hhc

                      Were they served hot at the restaurant? I got a bag to go and found that at room temperature they were hard to open, but heated they puffed up nicely, with a hollow pocket, as you say.

                      1. re: Glencora

                        not served hot, maybe warm after we asked.

                2. I just had dinner at Oren's last night. We had the original hummus and it was very good. I thought some of the sides were just okay. Like the Labne, it wasn't as flavorful as others I've had.

                  The only *big* issue we had was the service. It was very inconsistent...we didn't get the cabbage salad, though we did notice others around us did, we had to ask twice for water, it took a while for them take our order and a while to arrive, then about 10 minutes after getting our food, they gave us our check and kept coming back to see if we had paid.

                  I think I would try this place again, but perhaps when it is less crowded.

                  1. i didn't enjoy the hummus, but i'm not sure if it's because it was bad hummus, or if israeli-style hummus is significantly different than the hummus i grew up eating made by my syrian relatives. i thought there was a disproportionate amount of tahini in it which obscured the other flavors. does anyone else know anything about differences with israel-style hummus, if any?

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: vulber

                      I haven't had the hummus in israel (yet) but Oren's clearly has much, much, much more tahini than any other hummus I've had. I like it.

                      1. re: bbulkow

                        i suppose it's personal preference, then. too much for me.

                        1. re: vulber

                          I am almost for sure that Hummus does vary from country to country in the middle east. I can tell you though that the Hummus here is as close to the Hummus I have had in Israel as any other place I have tried in the Bay Area. Same goes for the Pita, which is most certainly different then the typical Pita served in the US. I think you are right that it is a personal preference, but for those seeking true Israeli food, so far I have not found anything comparable.

                          1. re: elliora

                            fair enough - as i mentioned, i grew up in a partially syrian household, so admittedly, my preference is what i'm used to

                            1. re: vulber

                              I think it is a national difference, but can't comment since I haven't eaten hummus in Israel. My Israeli friends have raved about the style - and the only hummus that tastes like Israel.

                    2. I got a sampler plus sides of falafel and hummus. (A place called Hummus Shop doesn't have hummus in its sampler?)

                      Standouts were the smoky Romanian eggplant and the surprisingly very spicy matbucha. I liked the carrots and falafel enough that I'd order them again. Whole wheat pita were large and excellent. Really liked the free little taste of slaw or whatever that is (don't see it on the menu). Skhug was also excellent and very spicy.

                      Beets were bland and a bit too sweet for my taste. Babaganoush was OK but I much preferred the Romanian. Hummus was good though I prefer more tahina and a coarser texture.

                      $8.95 for the sampler is kind of expensive for small portions of six items but I guess that's the Palo Alto premium.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        The fine-ness of the grind is a style thing, and Oren's does Tel Aviv (Israli) style hummus which is always that way. I think there was a long thread somewhere disputing whether it's really a style thing, or attached to ethnic groups, or geographic, or what.

                        Don't take me as gospel on the topic --- but

                        What I know is if you go to Tel Aviv and sit at a street-side place, they have Hummus and it's EXACTLY like what's at Oren's. With fresh-ground, and freshly made warm pita.

                        Hummus isn't in the appetizer sampler the same way when you go to a steak house and get the a sampler, there's no steak. Perhaps that's not the world's best example, but it fully makes sense to me that there's no hummus in the sampler. The sampler is what you get before your hummus or alongside your hummus (sampler of side dishes).

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          I don't want that much hummus at lunch unless I can take a nap afterwards. Holy Land's combination salad is roughly equal portions of hummus, baba ganoush, beets, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, and tabouleh, that's my idea of a good lunch.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Agreed. It's always been dinner for me, Israelis seem to eat it as a final meal of the day more than a lunch.

                      2. According to Palo Alto Online, Oren's will be expanding to Castro St, MV. It will take over the current/ex Workshop space.