Over the past few years, D.C. has seen an abundance of new restaurants specializing in hummus. Fast-casual hummus pop-up joint Little Sesame hopped onto the bandwagon recently, opening earlier this month on 18th Street near Dupont Circle. Located in the basement of DGS Delicatessen, a well-known Jewish deli, the restaurant serves delicious vegetarian selections that are perfect for a quick lunch or take-out meal.
Little Sesame is the brainchild of DGDS Delicatessen co-owner Nick Wiseman and his friend Ronen Tenne. After years of experience in the food industry, the two ventured to open a restaurant inspired by hummusiyot, small delis that serve hummus in Israel.
The cozy layout of Little Sesame is inviting and friendly. White walls, light-gray brick stones, brass string lights hanging from the ceiling and long wooden tables give the room an organic feel. Although minimally decorated, the space gives a sense of lightness in its simplicity. Even the menu design and its selections are simple. Every order is composed of a bowl of daily prepared Israeli hummus that can be ordered with an assortment of different toppings — mostly vegetarian — and accompanied by a leafy salad with sumac and honey dressing, plus warm pita bread on the side.
There are five different options for hummus toppings, which vary according to the season. Recommendations from the staff, who were very friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, include the hummus with fried cauliflower, green onion and “everything” spice ($9) and hummus with sauteed greens, crispy chickpeas and smoked paprika ($10). My friend and I decided to order both options — she ordered the fried cauliflower version, and I ordered the crispy chickpeas one. The dishes seemed slightly pricey for just a bowl of hummus accompanied by a small assortment of vegetables.
The hummus itself was really creamy, accented by the ideal amount of paprika and olive oil. The chickpeas felt light and crispy, and the pita was just warm enough. The salad was quite simple and did not mix too many flavors, but it tasted fresh and paired perfectly with the hummus, which was more on the heavy side. Overall, the hummus, salad, pita bread and even the pieces of fried cauliflower harmonized well together.
Although the hummus is delicious, the selection is quite limiting. The restaurant specializes in using fresh vegetables, and there is only one non-vegetarian dish of the five options: hummus with pastrami, pickled mustard seeds and chives. The restaurant would appeal to a wider range of diners if it considered expanding its selection beyond vegetable-based dishes.
In addition to the five dishes, there is also a wide assortment of beverages. The selection includes Mexican Coca-Cola, Izze and boxed water. Diners with a sweet tooth could also order the vanilla ice cream with tahini and honey brittle as a dessert.
Overall, Little Sesame is a great gastronomic experience. The subdued ambience of the space complements the delicious food. While it does not offer any surprises, the restaurant is perfect for diners looking for delicious vegetarian options or just for a light lunch meal. Little Sesame is great to visit with friends, or just by yourself, as the communal tables make it feel like all diners are enjoying their hummus platters together. Those with larger appetites might wish to order more than one serving, as the dishes — especially the pitas — are rather small. It is definitely a good choice for those passing by Dupont.