As soon as it opened in August, there was a ton of buzz around one of Ottawa's newest restaurants, Chickpeas. Aptly named, chickpeas are featured in pretty much all of the Middle Eastern-inspired dishes at the restaurant. The menu is entirely plant-based and focuses on fresh, organic ingredients, offers many gluten free options, and practically everything is made in-house. In fact, to avoid using canned chickpeas, the owner soaks an upward of 30,000 dry chickpeas each night in preparation for the next day's service. Knowing all this and hearing that Chickpeas has a great selection of hummus and falafel (two of my favourite things!), and I couldn't wait to try it out!
I went to Chickpeas a few weeks ago with a couple friends. We were all pleasantly surprised as soon as we walked in the door. The modern décor, natural light, and friendly staff gave us a great vibe right from the get go. We ordered the hummus plate to share (which featured a small sampling of six unique varieties of hummus) and we each ordered the Fawaffle (the falafel waffle). Our meals were colourful, flavourful and nicely plated. We all loved the Fawaffle and appreciated that the food didn't feel too heavy or greasy. Special mention goes to the mango hummus. It was my favourite from the platter. I would have liked to try more items off the menu, the salads and the falafel wraps looked really tempting, but I was stuffed! I'll definitely be going back again.
Chickpeas is located in the Trainyards. This part of town isn't exactly a foodie destination, but I have no doubt that Chickpeas will become a fixture to those of you who live, work, or shop in the area. Chickpeas could compare price-wise to some fast food restaurants (like its neighbour Subway), but the overall experience and food quality vastly sets it apart from other establishments in the same price range.
The owner, Omer Abdallah, has clearly put a lot thought and heart into the concept, and he is definitely committed to providing his customers with fresh, whole foods. I had the opportunity to interview him and below he shares more about himself, his restaurant, the secret to great hummus, and his plans for the future.
Amy: Congrats on opening Chickpeas. I absolutely love the concept. What was your motivation or inspiration for starting a restaurant focused on chickpeas?
Omer: I’ve always been passionate about food - ever since I can remember. It started with loving to eat food at first, then I fell in love with making it. My journey with chickpeas began when I was growing up. My family and I would eat falafel and hummus in the Middle-East all the time - it was a family tradition. I guess you can say it was much more than chickpeas to me, it created a special bond between my family and I. When I decided to open a restaurant, I knew it had to be related to chickpeas! I wanted to take ancient chickpea recipes and add a modern Western twist to it. As a result, I came up with a menu that, in my opinion, you can't find anywhere else.
Amy: I know you have very high standards when it comes to food quality and food preparation. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Omer: We are a scratch kitchen, meaning we make everything in-house. Canned food is against my policy. As a result, none of my food has any chemicals, preservatives, or additives! There is no secret ingredient; it's just real food! The chickpeas that I make all my dishes from are organic which contributes enormously to the quality of my food.
Amy: Your hummus is amazing. Any tips of the trade that you can share with us?
Omer: Peel your chickpeas! It makes a world of a difference. (Amy's edit: to clarify, after soaking and boiling chickpeas, Omer peels off the outer layer, or "skin", of the chickpeas. It makes for smoother hummus.)
Amy: What have been the most poplar items off your menu?
Omer: The Fawaffle, mango hummus (since it's my own creation and no one else makes it in the world), and the falafels have been a big hit given that we cook them fresh on the spot.
Amy: I know you just opened in August, but are there any exciting plans on the horizon for Chickpeas?
Omer: We plan to focus on our first location for now. But in the near future, we would like to open a few more locations across the city and eventually across the country. If we ever became a multinational restaurant, we will always be proud to be Canadian.