Last week, a new vegan restaurant opened in Ottawa’s Trainyards: Chickpeas, a name fitting for a restaurant that regularly soaks approximately 30,000 dry beans overnight to fulfill the next day’s demands for hummus and falafels.
“Canned food is against my policy,” said Omer Abdallah, Chickpea’s chef who prides himself on his entirely organic ingredients. He’s made sure his 1,200-square-foot restaurant is ready to serve at least 15 kilograms of organic chickpeas every day of week. “It might take a little longer to make, but that’s the way it should be.”
The Middle Eastern fusion with Canadian sensibilities doesn’t gloss over its love of the garbanzo bean. The falafels are warm and nutty, shaped like mini-doughnuts perfect for the homemade garlic dressing. The hummus dips are in pleasing bright colours, each container crowned mint leaves and spice.
On Labour Day, Abdallah unleashed chickpea concoctions he spent the better part of a year perfecting: exotic variations of hummus, tabbouleh, and falafel all based upon traditional Lebanese recipes.
“I’ve been thinking about this restaurant, even at my last job, for well over a year.”
Last winter, Abdallah quit his ad agency job and engaged his brother, Khaled, and his father in his private endeavour. With no more than his passion for homemade food and a supportive family, Abdallah decided to travel to Lebanon for the month of March.
“That was a huge culture shock, even though my background is from there,” he said. “They made everything from scratch, authentically, slowly.”
Coincidentally, 2016 is the United Nation’s international year of the pulses, and people around the world have been encouraged to celebrate beans, or pulses, in various ways. Abdallah did his part by offering to help in rural Lebanese restaurants, across several villages, in exchange for learning opportunities and time-honoured recipes.
“I came back from Lebanon and realized I wouldn’t be happy unless I made these classic recipes my own.”
Abdallah painstakingly developed six distinct hummus flavours – black bean, red beet, roasted red pepper, avocado, mango, and kiwi – alongside a range of falafel offerings. Besides the “regular” falafels, Chickpeas offers fawaffles — falafels shaped like, well, waffles. And if warm pita and fresh veggies run out, homemade falafel chips are on-hand.
The high-ceilinged storefront, with menus displayed on three flatscreens and a massive wooden representation of a chickpea, the resto also features specialty coffee and herbal teas made from scratch to complement a vegan menu. Upon entering the restaurant, it’s not long before patrons are offered a sample and the brothers Abdallah are asking for feedback.
“Chickpeas will always be very welcoming,” said the proud new owner, hoping to pay forward the generosity of his Lebanese hosts to his patrons. “I love people, I love talking to people, and I want to hear what they think of this.”
Chickpeas, 500 Terminal Ave., Unit A05, Trainyards, 613-789-8998