Hummus Hut serves up fresh, healthy, vegan fare

Karl Wells
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Happy Hummus Hut
208 Duckworth St.
St. John’s
Phone (709) 579-5746

The Happy Hummus Hut on Duckworth is an eatery, as the moniker might suggest, that caters to those looking for vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free dining.

I’m an omnivore. I eat everything; but I do have a special fondness for vegetables. I love their rainbow colours, textures and unique flavours. Legions of health-conscious souls among us, course correcting toward a low meat diet, are thrilled we now have several restaurants specializing in vegetarian delights.

Happy Hummus Hut just happened to be the diner closest to where we’d parked the car. My eye caught the sign. I wondered, how happy is this hummus hut?

I assume sunshine yellow must be the happy colour. Hummus Hut’s walls were ablaze.

We didn’t mind as it was good to be reminded of what sunshine yellow looks like — even when it’s out of a tin. Local artwork and photos lent supplementary hues, primary and otherwise, to the overall mix at Hummus Hut.

Counter

The lion’s share of space was claimed by a wraparound counter sectioning off a kitchen/reception/cashier area, featuring two dedicated stations for preparing gluten-free options. On the wall above this multi-purpose zone were three menu boards. Orders were placed for appetizers and mains.

Next we were directed to a dining section at the back and up one level. (Mind the step!)

A collection of empty food jars and other sundries corralled a group of portable tables and folding chairs. I’d say there was room for 20 people. We sat and waited for my cucumber-infused H2O and guest’s vanilla flavoured herbal tea with crafty hand-filled twist-top bag.

I don’t recall whether background music was provided but I do remember the owner, Hlynn Kenny, humming several tunes as she prepared pesto platters and the like. She was, we noticed, very cheerful and offered a warm welcome to all who entered, asking if it was their first visit, etc.

One of the drawbacks in appropriating the word “happy” for your business is that you must appear to be happy all the time, even if you’re not. Grumpy Hummus Hut doesn’t cut it.

Infusion

The cucumber infusion gave plain water a piercing vitality, matched by the rich, round flavours of the tea. It was a good start, followed by surprisingly thin but fabulous carrot, apple and ginger soup.

The broth offered a robust condensation of all three principal flavours — the kind of punchiness to be found in a well-made consommé.

Chickpea salad without dressing is rather nondescript. In this case, the day was saved by a chirpy roasted red pepper dressing. It bestowed some real oomph to the mixture of peas, grated carrot and red pepper.

A daily hummus is offered at Hummus Hut and on our day it was roasted garlic zucchini hummus. Of the various methods of delivery (flatbread, wrap and rice paper roll) I chose the flatbread sandwich. Concealed between the slices were: carrot, red pepper, cucumber, mushroom slices and hummus. Making things absolutely spot on was the dressing, made slightly edgy with the addition of hot sauce.

I love the texture of dampened rice paper. It made a sensational wrapping for the rolls containing nut pesto, carrots and green beans. Guest was served two, but generously offered one to me.

It was a nutty, crunchy, textural triumph. As for flavour? When you add nut pesto or nut butter to carrots, green beans and rice paper, the result is irresistible.

See CHOCOLATE, page C3

We each finished with something sweet. It was simply impossible to ignore one of the desserts, chocolate hummus.

Who knew?

An orb of dark chocolate hummus, a visual twin of chocolate ice cream, was presented in a ramekin on a plate filled with apple wedges and crackers (made from seeds).

The hummus had the taste of partly sweet chocolate and the texture of smooth hummus. It was good but so heavy I couldn’t finish it. Truth is, I was served enough to satisfy four people. Scaling back on the single portion size would be a capital idea.

Serving size was not an issue with Hummus Hut’s rice paper roll filled with fudgy spiced pumpkin, although its sweetness was at the very edge of what’s acceptable to the average palate. Still, it had all the flavour of the fulsome squash which, to some extent, compensated for the dessert’s lacklustre presentation, one modest-sized roll being leaned on by a bold white and red apple wedge that seemed to be saying, I’m the star of this show!

If it’s fresh, clean, vibrant gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan cooking you’re after, then Happy Hummus Hut gets my vote. Cheery greetings and coffee-shop atmosphere suit, as well.

Rating:

* * *         

Price:

Lunch for two with tax and tip —$47 (approximately)

Sound level:

Moderate

* Fair  * * Good  * * * Excellent  * * * * Exceptional

Karl Wells is an accredited personal chef, author of  “Cooking with One Chef

One Critic” and recipient of awards from the national body of the Canadian Culinary Federation and the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Contact him through his website,

www.karlwells.com

Follow him on Twitter: @karl_wells

Organizations: Canadian Culinary Federation, Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador

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