The hummus at Vish is served in a bowl, warm and creamy, topped with chickpeas, fava beans, cumin, paprika and parsley. On the side is lemon garlic dip and “schug,” a Yemeni hot sauce made with jalapeño and serrano peppers. “When you buy hummus in the grocery store it’s full of preservatives and you serve it cold,” says restaurateur Zvika “Ziki” Eshet. “We make it by order and serve it warm. It’s a whole different palate. The texture is different.”
It certainly is. Scooped with fluffy, fresh pita (“vish” is a slang Hebrew word for said scooping motion), the flavour hits from every direction, with the buttery hummus crashing into the pungent spiciness of the sides. Vish features no fewer than 10 variations of the Middle-Eastern staple, offering artichoke, eggplant and babaganoush, among other toppings.
Eshet says there’s nothing fancy in the cooking, just quality ingredients freshly combined. “The tahini is the best Ethiopian tahini, imported from Israel,” he says. Jars of it line the small, cheerful restaurant. The chef mixes it with chickpeas and Vish’s “magic water” (made with a trade-secret blend of herbs) for each order. “It’s the first time for many people to have hummus as a main dish and not as a spread or dip,” Eshet says. “This is new for them and I’m happy to see when it goes well.”
Eshet opened Vish in June. He brought the concept with him when he emigrated from Israel in the summer of 2021. There, he worked for Vish’s parent company, Hummus Eliyahu, which has more than 70 franchises scattered throughout the country. Hummus Eliyahu began its overseas adventures with two restaurants in the United States. The Edmonton location is its first foray into this country. “We did our research and saw that some of the biggest chains in Canada started in Edmonton,” Eshet says, mentioning Earls Kitchen + Bar, Boston Pizza and Booster Juice. And there were many other reasons to start in Alberta, he says, singling out a well-educated population, low taxes and public health care. “All the main things,” he says.
So in the summer of 2021, long-delayed by the COVID pandemic, Eshet, his wife and their infant child moved to Edmonton. He considered locations for Vish along Whyte Avenue, but ultimately decided on 124th Street, where the space had the restaurant improvements he wanted. He partnered with local bakery The Happy Camel for pitas that are “big enough, elastic enough and thick enough” to hold the pita-pocket sandwich options, and has developed a selection of tahini-based smoothies. “There is a specific job for every shake,” says Eshet, “but sesame seeds are a super-food, so tahini goes in all of them.”
Top it all off with cardamom-flavoured Turkish coffee and tahini-infused dark chocolate. L’chaim!