The 2010 Falafel-Off

June 20, 2010

My Parisian professor wasn’t kidding when he said that summer in Paris only lasts for three days. The weather has been downright cold, and I haven’t been in the presence of so much rain and clouds and so little sun since my trip to Ireland 8 years ago. But in spite of the cold I spent most of today outdoors with food and friends, which really wasn’t that bad…

Today was the event that we created and named the ‘Falafel-Off’. It is generally accepted that the very best falafel sandwich in Paris belongs to L’As Du Falafel in the Marais district. But a few weeks ago when L’As happened to be closed I tried another place, and I thought that it might be better. So we decided to do a taste test, and after gathering Laura, Nick, Caroline, and Jane (who I haven’t seen since first semester, but who is back in Paris for the summer!) we headed to the Marais to put three different places to the test.

The Marais is one of those neighborhoods that everyone loves, but it’s pretty great, so how can you not enjoy it? First of all, many of the shops are open on Sundays, which means that it is actually lively and interesting on the notorious day of the week when normal French people refuse to work. But other than that it has lots of little cobblestone streets, cute thrift stores, small independent art galeries (including Art’et Miss, where I worked!) delicious Jewish bakeries, and of course falafel! Top this off with all of the cool people walking around in artsy and interesting clothing and you have somewhere that tourists and locals alike just love.

But what about that falafel? While all five of us love to cook almost as much as we love to eat, none of us are falafel experts. But here are the players and our humble opinions…

L’As is the KING of falafel, the line stretches far far far down the street, and tourists bravely seek it out with frightening tenacity-“LOOK! THEY HAVE ONE! WE MUST BE GETTING CLOSE!”. If I hadn’t at least thought the exact same thing to myself before I could laugh at them, but when you read about L’As in every Paris Guide and on every Paris Food Blog, how can you not treat it like finding buried treasure?

The Sandwich: Pita, sliced veggies, warm falafel, and a creamy sauce topped off with a ‘sauce piquant’ that spice loving Caroline couldn’t refuse…it’s messy, cheap, prepared at lightning speed, and it is so delicious!

Located just across from L’As, I always looked at Mi-Va-Mi with skepticism, but I should have paid attention. After all, they have remained in business despite L’As’s world renowned name and widespread fame, and that line can’t just be overflow from L’As can it?

The Sandwich: I admit, when I first saw the fries I thought Jane had accidentally bought a Donor Kebob instead. But then I tried one, and it was delicious! The basic ingredients are the same as the L’As, but the MVM sauce was like a sweet and spicy salsa that was drastically different from L’As, but in a good way.

Chez Hannah is where I had my first “this might be better than L’As” falafel. Located just down the street from L’As, I like the red exterior-a nice contrast with the green of the other two. While the line to sit inside and out of the rain was long, the take-out line was short. Was it a bad sign?

The Sandwich: What had won me over at Hanna the first time was the hot slices of eggplant skewered on top of every falafel. It also contains a good amount of hummus, which was a nice touch. But after the creamy rich L’As sauce and the sweet MVM salsa, I found that the Hanna sauce was downright bland.

The verdict? Laura and Nick are still die-hard L’As fans, but Jane, Caroline and I thought that the salsa at MVM was just too good to pass up. As for Hanna? We agreed that the actual falafel was good, but the 3 hot slices of juicy eggplant can’t make up for a whole sandwich just begging for a better sauce. That eggplant was pretty great though…

Fortunately nobody needed sauce at our dessert location-Berthillon tastes good no matter the flavor or the weather. However, I do think it tastes slightly better when eaten au bord de la Seine with friends while waving to tourists on their Bateaux Mouches!

As for the Berthillon verdict? You already know my feelings there; all I need to say is Caramel au Beurre Salé.

A bientôt!

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2 Responses to “The 2010 Falafel-Off”

  1. grandma said

    what are you going to do when you have to eat American food?

  2. […] meals and laughed a lot and had dessert adventures and pleasant late night wanderings and an epic Falafel Off, where we compared different types of delicious falafel in the […]

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