Horizontal Falafel-Tasting in Brookline
Some people remember Paris for the 3-star restuarants; my mother remembers it for the gigantic falafels and gyro sandwiches that she and my father bought in the Morroccan joints on the Left Bank..(Yeah, I was the one that tipped her off...) Since I am house-keeping impaired, everytime my mother wants a chow-adventure, she offers to help me clean my kitchen...Well, I have no shame...Since the question of the best falafel in town had come up recently, I offered to make the rounds of the falafel epicenter, Brookline, in return for sanitizing the non-exhuast-hooded kitchen...
We bagan at, what I thought was going to be the winner, King Tut, across form the T-stop, in Brookline Village(10-5, M-F)...Mom blew our cover, explaining why we were splitting only ONE sandwich...Okay, I thought he'd rise to the occasion..Well, I've had way better from KT. In fact, I feel very guilty about judging them on an off day, because I usually enjoy the salt and cripiness combo here...They are small, which is okay, wrapped in one-half a sheet of pita, but he forgot our tomatoes and tahini..I mean, how could we compare? Wonderful hot sauce, and spicey balls'o'fava bean, but Mom wasn't dreaming of Paris, or Israel...
Our next stop was the much-heralded Rami's, in Coolidge Corner(Harvard St, Coolidge Corner T-stop, closed Fri.nite and Sat.).. The infamous Rami himself waited on us, and he was as UNPLEASANT as the KT owner had been pleasant....But the sandwich was an authentic Israeli delight...A whole fresh pita loaf, slit and schmeared with hummos, jampacked with cucumber and tomato and cabbage and pickles, a dab of their greens-heavy hot sauce(ask for a LOT!!!) and a generous helping of tender fava-bean balls..Drizzled with tahini, though fairly mild tahini....Mom was much happier...
We strolled by Trader Joe's, so we could work up an appetite for the next sandwich...We did non-perishable shopping, (Mom discovers Kashi-Crunch!!), and the soon-to-be rock-star who rides the cash-register at TJ's serenades us...Mom is charmed, by the incipient rock-star, and the food at Trader Joe's...
We stroll up the street to Schwarma King, out last stop(Beacon St, Coolidge Corner T-stop)...We order the falafel with hummos...Different than any of them...Comparable to Rami's, but with more spice overall...The pita was whole, yet not slit and stuffed, but grilled(with no oil, just crunch) and rolled around the filling...Mom was leaning toward Rami's, but she admitted that the fava bean balls were hotter(temp) and spicier here..The liberal drizzling of zestier-tahini and a healthier handful of chopped parsley increased the aromatic quotient here.. (If you end up here, make SURE you get the Schwarma King Salad, a bowlful of chopped cucumber, tomato, onion and parsley, marinated in olive oil and lemon juice...Juicey and refreshing! We also got the BEST dessert out of their pastry case, a bourma, sort of a slice of sugar-syrup and herb infused strudel stuffed with whole pistachios.......)
Mom wanted a ultimate Frankenstein-falafel, the filling from Schwarma King, stuffed into the pita pocket from Rami's....So this is your choice; you can go for the mild, clean, freshness of the Rami's sandwich, with it's heaps of raw vegetables, or the spicier wrap at Schwarma King, with the grilled pita, with its more aromatic memory...We couldn't decide, so it's a winner either way...
As we walked home, and I grilled her on various aspects of every mouthful, Mom said, "I feel just like a chowhound!"
It addition to my usual spelling errors and typos, this one could result in lack of contact info; it's SHAWARMA King...mea culpa!
We, too, live within walking distance of all three places and agree with your and your mother's views. The only thing I would add is that my own reaction to each place is very much a function of how hot (temp) the falafel is. I hate when the falafel balls have been sitting around underneath lights for any length of time. On that basis, I think I prefer Rami's as they sell so much of the stuff that you can usually time your order to get the falafel right out of the fryer. One last thought on the subject--how about taking some of Rami's best falafel and racing down to the Mix bakery ( that you were nice enough to turn us on to) and creating the ultmate Viet Namese sandwich?
Wholly unrelated, we went up to Arlington last night for St. Athanasius The Great Greek Orthodox Church (735 Mass Ave) annual food fest. Not the best Greek food you'll ever have (after all they can't cook to order and some of the food isn't as hot(temp) as you might like) but they offer up a wide variety of tasty stuff including whole spit roasted lamb and pig.(Former wonderful, latter untasted).But aside from the food the scene is fabulous, charged with authentic ethnic energy.Fest runs through Sunday.
I thought that falafels were always made from chickpeas, not fava beans. So this opens the question, is a falafel a generic term for fried balls of ground spiced beans or is a falafel made from favas a different creature altogether? Also, the rolled up version is Syrian style, and the stuffed split pita is Israeli style, as far as I know. Most of the falafels you get around Cambridge seem to be more Syrian, except for Skewers in Harvard Sq.
You guys made me curious so I had to do a little research. It seems chickpea falafel are Israeli, whereas the original Egyption falafel uses fava beans. This was an interesting article on falafel, including an exerpt about chickpeas vs. favas from "The Foods of Israel Today", by Joan Nathan.
I always forget to check with my research assistant before I post. (g)
The article makes total sense with our reactions; Rami's Israeli version of the falafel balls was milder, and didn't fight with all the fresh vegetables, and mild tahini...Shawarma King, whose balls, (sorry!) list favas and chickpeas in their menu description, are definitely spicier and more flavorful..King Tut, I'm willing to bet, does straight fava bean and parsley, giving it the greenish color that one poster on another thread noted.