Friday, April 29, 2011

What Makes a Good Falafel?

I really like falafel sandwiches.  Done correctly, they're a satisfying vegetarian meal with flavor and textures.  I like freshly fried falafel with a crunchy outside and soft interior.  Israeli falafel is a mixture of ground chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley or cilantro, spices and bulgur.  Egyptian falafel can be made with fava beans.  Other Middle Eastern recipes combine chickpeas and fava beans. 
A key ingredient to a good falafel sandwich is soft, fresh pita bread.  (George's King of Falafel is Lebanese and has a thin pita bread I don't like.) The hot falafel are added to the pita pocket and then topped at the salad bar with a variety of fresh and pickled vegetables, hummus, baba ganoush and tahina sauce. 
My main complaint with DC-area falafel places has been the salad bar.  Maoz has good pita and their falafel have the requisite crunch.  Where they fail is the underseasoning of some of the topping options.  Amsterdam Falafel has probably the best tasting falafel, pita and salad bar options, but their location is not convenient for workday lunches.  After discovering that vFalafel opened on P Street, I gave it a whirl.
 Salad bar.  Standard toppings, a few more pickles would be nice, or a tabbouleh salad.  Tomatoes are out of season, and the ones here were not even a nice red.  Good hummus.
 $5.95 plus tax for a fresh falafel sandwich.
I topped mine with hummus, beets, red cabbage and cucumbers, some mysterious green sauce and tahina.  An interesting difference was the non-round falafel.  The shape made it easier to stuff in the toppings.
The falafel were very flavorful, crunchy outside and soft on the inside.  There may have been a touch too much salt in the mix, but otherwise it was good. 
The only downside was the pita.  I think there are better options available. vFalafel is open until 4 am, which makes a solid alternative to Alberto's massive pizza slices after the bars close in Dupont.

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