****Spoiler Alert****: The killer is the hummus!
Although I’ve been to Gazala’s Place in Hell’s Kitchen probably more than 20 times, I never actually met Gazala herself, the hardest working woman in showbiz. That’s because she is hardly ever there. A few years after opening tiny Gazala’s Place she opened this Upper West Side flagship where she spends most of the time. To finally meet her and see her in action was as thrilling to me as meeting Michael White, or Bobby Flay. She is a woman of few words, and all business in that kitchen.
Thankfully for us, Gazala chose the al-Juhhāl (loosely translates to “the Ignorant”) way of life in the Druze village near Haifa, Israel where she grew up. It essentially means she chose the non-religious way, which meant among other things, she is free to travel and in this case, spread the word about the Druze. The word is Hospitality. When you visit a Druze village like we did in Israel a few years ago (coincidentally Gazala’s sister village), you are welcomed and greeted with warmth warmer than your aunt Sally. And so much of that welcome is conveyed via what I can only describe as Trays of heaven. No way aunt Sally can cook like this
Treys of heaven started flowing in very quickly at Gazala’s by the usual army of Russian waiters/waitresses I’ve come to know over the years. Don’t be fooled by the “Asian” looking waitresses, as they are also Russian. For some reason, perhaps a misunderstanding with the agency Gazala works with, other than the cooks, she only employs Russian workers at both branches. A fine Labneh (goat cheese) with Zaat’ar spices to start the party. The Bourekas (flaky pastry) is top notch as usual. They call it the “Boureka of the day” but we all know they always have the Cheese/Sun Dried Tomato which is what I usually get, Cheese/Spinach, and on occasion the Cheese/Mushroom. This is the only place where I order this as I’m not normally fond of the Bourek/Bourekas. Fresh Israeli salad, and surprisingly punchy meat cigars were in the starters mix.
Here me now and listen to me yesterday (an old SNL joke for the uninformed, or “Ignorant”). As I’ve said before many times, this is my favorite Hummus in town. Freshly made daily, it has that perfect creamy texture and that extra oomph that I’ve only had in Israel. Nish Nush makes a fine rendition, the Hummus Kitchen chain produces a good one, but this is still the one. I can taste it as I’m writing this.
The big meat platter, Moshokal, with lamb, chicken & kafta kebab with rice delivered strong flavors, perhaps with the exception of the slightly bland lamb. The Date cookies and the Baklava we got by mistake were fine but perhaps the biggest discovery this time was a pair of Yogurt puddings charged with oranges and rosewater called Osh Al-Saraia. A heavenly finish at heavenly Gazala’s
380 Columbus Ave
Recommended Dishes: Hummus (plain or with chickpeas), falafel, Bourekas, grilled chicken, Osh Al-Saraia