Before you even look at the menu, you are presented with a plate containing four (gratis) salads: chickpea, carrot, corn and beets. Then the server returns with a round loaf of flatbread, still hot and puffy and a bit singed from the oven. “Laffa” is what they call this bread in Israel, and it lends its name to Hewlett’s newest Middle Eastern restaurant.
Laffa Bar & Grill, located in the Peninsula Shopping Center, is the successor to Ahuva’s Grill, which opened in 2012 and closed earlier this year. (Ahuva’s Grill Express, which specializes in shawarma, is still going strong two miles down Peninsula Boulevard in Lawrence.) The new owners, Alex Avizov, Aaron Avizov and Yakov Yusupov, have just completed a bright renovation.
Manager Michael Arabov described the menu as Israeli, but noted that the fabric of modern Israeli cuisine is composed of many threads: the Middle Eastern cooking that is native to the region, as well as that of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Yemen, Morocco and, more recently, from Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Of course there is hummus, which can be ordered plain, with mushrooms and onions, with falafel or “masabacha,” topped with chickpeas, tahini and olive oil. Other traditional Middle Eastern dishes include tabbouleh and eggplant salad, shish kebab, kofta kebab and shawarma. There is Yemenite soup (chicken or beef) served with kubaneh (a muffin-shaped Yemenite yeast bread) and hilbeh (a gelatinous condiment based on fenugreek seeds); Moroccan cigars (phyllo dough filled with beef and potato) and couscous with beef, chicken or vegetables. From Central Asia come elaborate rice dishes such as plov and bakhsh, samsa and bichak (stuffed buns) and tiny manti dumplings.
Most starters and soups are $7.95; sandwiches and rice dishes range from $7.95 to $15.95; grilled entrees from $23.95 to $27.95.
Laffa Bar & Grill is kosher, supervised by the Vaad Hakashrus of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway. Hours are Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday, in observation of sabbath, from 9 a.m. to 2 hours before sunset.
1326 Peninsula Blvd., Hewlett, 516-341-0400, laffabarandgrill.com.