"It's just so funny to think about it in terms of 'it was true love,'" Sara Kramer says, pronouncing "love" like "luuuuuv." Kramer is looking at and talking about her partner in crime and in the kitchen, Sarah Hymanson.
Joking aside, "the Sara(h)s" seem to operate as one entity—literally finishing each other's sentences, giggling constantly at inside jokes and dancing together like no one's watching between shots of a video shoot this fall at Sahadi's, a Middle Eastern grocery store in Brooklyn. They are the powerhouses behind Madcapra, a very "California" vegetable-forward falafel shop that opened in L.A.'s bustling Grand Central Market this May.
Kramer and Hymanson have been working together for only about two years "but pretty immediately, we got each other; it was clear that we were speaking the same language," Hymanson explains. That bond started in the kitchen at Glasserie, a Middle Eastern restaurant that drew quite a bit of acclaim and droves of people to a far northern corner of Brooklyn.
Many of those diners were coming for the restaurant's most prized dish: rabbit served three ways with a side of flaky Yemenite flatbread called malawach (see the recipe). It's been a lifelong love of Kramer, whose mother is from Israel, where the dish is popular. "I grew up eating a lot, a lot of malawach," she says, laughing, "more than I should have probably." The bread is addictive: "It's crispy, it's pillowy, it's buttery, there's steam coming out of it and you're dipping it into things—it's really interactive, and it's super satisfying," Kramer adds, dragging out the u in "super."
It's a dough that takes some technique to make—butter is layered in a way similar to making croissant dough—so just before the Sara(h)s ditched the snowy winters of Brooklyn for sunny Southern California, they visited Israel where they made the bread with the grandmother of a family friend of Kramer's. "She's a fantastic home cook. It was very natural for her," Kramer explains. "She just kills it every time."
Though the pair has been in California for a year and a half, the recipe has remained in their back pockets, but it will finally make its West Coast debut next year when they open their sit-down restaurant in Los Angeles, where they plan to serve it during lunch. "So come and get it early in the day," Hymanson says.
The pair has remained tight-lipped about the project, but it won't be too formal. "I would never describe our food as formal," Kramer says. "Ah, it's the worst word," Hymanson adds.
We can venture this: The project is certain to reflect their partnership. "Everything is always a conversation for better or for worse. We're always pushing each other. It's so hard to find someone who you truly trust to make food that you find to be delicious," Hymanson says. The conversation is interrupted by giggling, but it's clear that they're serious. "There's never a question of whether someone's doing the right thing. That part is never part of the equation," Kramer adds.
As they cook the malawach on a pan in the Tasting Table Test Kitchen, they watch the dough, waiting for it to puff up, creating the bread's signature flaky layers. Malawach is traditionally served with a fresh tomato sauce made from a grated tomato and thick tangy labneh, but California has worn off on the chefs: They serve the bread with labneh and a salad using the season's last heirloom tomatoes and plums, fennel fronds and a marinade of toasted cardamom, chiles, salt, garlic, olive oil and lemon. But both the bread and the dressing are versatile: "During the winter, I think it would be great with some steamed squash and labneh, or steamed kabocha with the same dressing," Kramer says. Or "charred greens," Hymanson adds.
"Pair anything with it," Kramer says. We certainly will.