The dish on Long Island's restaurant and food scene.
They had me at the free salad. Even before ordering, every diner at Ahuva’s Grill in Hewlett receives a selection of fresh, vibrant salads. Today’s offerings: cabbage salad, corn salad, chickpea salad and beet salad.
A friend who works in the Five Towns suggested we meet at Ahuva’s for lunch. I’m an ardent supporter of Ahuva’s Grill Express, the restaurant’s shwarma-specialist offshoot in Lawrence — but this was my first time at the mother ship, so I let my pal do the ordering.
“We have to get the Yemenite chicken soup,” she said. Good call. The broth was rich and fragrant with a haunting spice mixture we later found out was called hawaij. The soup was further enhanced by a squeeze of lemon and a few spoonfuls of hilbeh, a gelatinous sauce based on long-soaked fenugreek seeds that added a bracing bitterness. The soup came with a little loaf of kubaneh, a crusty Yemenite bread with a distinctive swirled shape.
I had just begun exulting over the kubaneh when the laffa showed up. Laffa is the puffy, fresh-baked and entirely swoon-worthy flatbread that accompanies all of Ahuva’s cold appetizers. With laffa’s help, I consumed much delicious hummus, eggplant spread, tabbouleh, spicy eggplant dip and deeply herbal falafel.
Not that we needed any more food, but I ordered the baby chicken kebab which, our waiter said, featured dark meat as opposed to the white meat in the chicken shish kebab. It was predictably tender, juicy and flavorful. The mejadara that came with it had too high a proportion of overcooked rice, not enough lentils or fried onions. Or perhaps that’s just the Yemenite way. It occurs to me that all mejadara I’ve ever had is either Lebanese or Palestinian. How’s that for effete?
Ahuva's Grill is at 1326 Peninsula Blvd., Hewlett, 516-341-0400, ahuvasgrill.com.