Israeli-born Itai Ben Eli, Itamar Levy and Sash Kurgan, the team behind Mediterranean steakhouse Doris Metropolitan, are opening a new restaurant, Hamsa, in Rice Village.
The restaurant at 5555 Morningside Drive will open summer 2020 and will be a modern take on Israeli food.
“Being from Israel, our chef/partner Sash Kurgan always implemented Israeli food (at Doris Metropolitan) because this is the kind of kitchen we all grew up on and trained on. For a long time, we were discussing wanting to open a restaurant that focused specifically on that food,” Ben Eli said.
The fact that Israeli food is so popular in the United States right now helps. When Ben Eli and his partners saw Rice Village and the space at Morningside Drive, it clicked.
“The Houstonian diner is educated, and he likes new adventures and new cuisines. Houston, we feel, is a huge melting pot, and as Israelis, we could not relate more because that’s how Israel is,” Ben Eli said, to explain why he chose Houston.
The name Hamsa comes from the Hamsa Hand, a Middle Eastern symbol used to ward off malevolent influences, as well as the Arabic word for “five.”
The 4,600-square-foot space will have a 1,200-square-foot patio. Ben Eli isn’t sure yet how many seats the restaurant will have, what his employee count will be or what the build-out will cost.
The Hamsa team worked without a broker and negotiated directly with Edge Realty Partners, which has handled leasing and management for Rice Village since September. The restaurant’s architecture will be designed internally, and the contractor is Houston-based Construction Concepts & Design.
The menu will include hearty proteins and vegetable-heavy dishes created by Kurgan, Doris Metropolitan’s executive chef and partner. Ben Eli declined to comment on specific dishes that Hamsa might offer but noted the menu will be more casual, with a lower price point, and will include hummus. It will also have a wine program featuring Old World, American and Middle Eastern wine.
“I feel like, the wine world is so diverse and so big, and a lot of times that (Middle Eastern) part of the winemaking world is getting neglected in many restaurants, for many reasons. Production is very low, or the varietals are not as popular as people are used to (seeing),” Ben Eli said.
“I’m very passionate about this part of the world and the winemaking from Israel to Lebanon to Greece. I feel like there are fantastic producers, and those wines go great with Mediterranean food. I think it’ll be a great opportunity for people to try something new.”
By Laura Gillespie