Hamsa serves modern Israeli cuisine in Rice Village

The number five is kind of a big deal at 5555 Morningside Drive, the address for modern-Israeli restaurant Hamsa—which, translated in Arabic, means five. Hamsa is also known as an ancient Islamic and Jewish symbol for the Fatima hand, which symbolizes protection, health and good fortune.

It’s no coincidence that co-founder and CEO Itai Ben Eli decided to open Hamsa in 2022 in the fifth month of the year. The opening came two years after Ben Eli originally leased the space, right before a global pandemic shut down businesses in 2020.

“It’s all a blessing. I believe that we opened at the right time,” Ben Eli said.

What’s special about it?

Step into the restaurant, and the ambiance, designed by Ben Eli’s wife, takes diners to an upscale European dining room with colorful interior and modern furniture.

Dining at Hamsa, Ben Eli said, means a variety of items on a jam-packed table where different flavors, textures and temperatures come together. Cocktails and wine options have a Middle Eastern twist if they’re not originally sourced from the region. He stressed it’s not only about what food is being served at Hamsa, but also how food is eaten: family style.

Why we love it

Ben Eli said the term “Israeli cuisine” is broad.

“Israel has so many different nationalities and types of cuisine in one melting pot,” he said.

Guests can expect food flavors and techniques inspired from the Middle East’s Levant region, which includes Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Northern Africa. Ingredients used in many menu items include olive oil, chickpeas and many spices as well as Turkish, Greek and Eastern European influences.

“It’s really all across the Mediterranean,” Ben Eli said.

What’s on the menu

Items vary across dinner and lunch menus. For both lunch and dinner, diners can pick from the menu’s salatim, which are spreads, dips and salads served before a big meal. Options include baba ganoush; squash tahini; shaved tomato and feta; matbucha, which are slow-cooked roasted bell peppers; and labneh, a thick cheese made from strained yogurt.

All salatim are served with freshly baked pita using a wood-burning oven that transforms the housemade dough discs into steaming puffs of pita in a matter of minutes.

For dinner, appetizers include in-house hummus, falafel, octopus, beef tartare and roasted cabbage.

Main dishes to be shared include the grilled branzino fish served on a fennel salad, lamb spare ribs and hanger steak. Charcoal-grilled options, such as chicken thighs, are served on a vegetable skewer and paired with a red onion parsley salad. Guests can choose from oyster mushroom, shrimp, tenderloin, or a combination of lamb and beef options.

Must-try menu items

Ben Eli invites wine lovers to try the Yalla Yalla experience, which translates in Hebrew to “let’s go.” He said the option is like a tasting menu that allows guests to “sit down, kick back and relax” while they get bombarded with food and six different wine pairings from the Middle East.

On Thursday evenings, he said Hamsa hosts Tel Aviv nights, when entertainment, belly dancers and music turn up the heat during the dinner experience.

“We thought that this concept would be perfect in a city like Houston that is so multicultural and so open when it comes to food,” Ben Eli said.

Address: 5555 Morningside Dr., Ste. 100, Houston

Website: www.hamsahtx.com

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