Dining out: Hosh al-Elleeya in Birzeit

17 May

A special place to bring friends and visitors when you are tiring of the “big” city is Hosh al-Elleeya. Located in the nearby village of Birzeit, the restaurant is a charming place, attracting a variety of groups looking for an intimate dinner and/or drinks in a relaxed, rustic setting. One of the things that make its menu unique is its focus on traditional Palestinian foods, more akin to what you would be served in someone’s home, as opposed to the more Western-oriented menus of salads, pastas and sandwiches usually found at higher-end restaurants in the city.

I went there with Kristen and Katie, in order to take advantage of Hosh’s collaboration with Sharaka, a West Bank community-supported agriculture initiative. Their menu for the month of May includes many tempting dishes that aren’t commonly served in restaurants, even here. So I followed my stomach to try the food and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and the friendly service.

What we ate and loved

One dish that is definitely a departure from American standbys is the akkoub, which we chose served with meat in a yogurt sauce.

Akkoub is described on the menu as gundelia, and by others as tumbleweed. The dish included the not unpleasantly stringy stems (with a chewy texture akin to unpeeled celery) and the tender buds of the plant, seasoned well in its preparation. I have heard it takes quite a bit of prep to prepare akkoub for cooking, which, when coupled with the short season, makes it a special short-lived treat. The sauce had a kishek base (smooth white balls of dried yogurt, reconstituted) with seasoning that tasted of thyme and oregano.

Fish tagine with tomatoes and potatoes

Fresh-tasting white fish cooked gently with tomatoes, potatoes and seasoning

Cauliflower and potatoes baked with tahina (Zahra waa batata bi-tahina) – a delicious favorite dish of mine.

I even plan to make it when I go home, but the deep fried version… when I’m up for the challenge.

We also enjoyed ful bi-laban, fresh fava beans stewed until tender in the same yogurt sauce as the akkoub.

What we ate and thought was just okay

Stuffed artichokes

Fresh artichoke hearts filled with meat. While the artichoke hearts themselves were tasty, the seemingly meat-only filling was not as tender and flavorful as I would have liked.

What we ate and did not enjoy

Artichoke soup. I did not taste this after hearing the reviews from my dining companions. It was oily, without flavor, according to them. There was plenty of tasty food to enjoy even when I gave this a miss.


2 Responses to “Dining out: Hosh al-Elleeya in Birzeit”

  1. danna May 22, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    Hi, I enjoyed your post on Hosh Al Eleeya. Thank you! I just wanted to make one small correction: the thistle dish locally known as Akkoub is Gundelia and not Grindelia, Gundelia is native to Palestine and the Levant. here’s the wiki link to it:
    I’m a Sharaka member and I’m glad you enjoyed our menu:)

    • domesticbedouin May 23, 2011 at 10:06 am #

      Danna — thanks for your correction and comment. I’ll amend the post to reflect the correct name. It makes a lot more sense now. Keep up the great work!

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