Sunday, August 3, 2008

Did Someone Say "Falafel"?

I am highly suggestible when it comes to falafel. When I spot the cheap eats staple on "Best of NYC" food lists, I clear my calendar and start mapping subway routes. If I overhear coworkers ordering falafel for lunch, I eavesdrop for details. These approaches have led to the delicious (Alfanoose) and the disappointing (Hoomoos Asli), as well as the reliably good (Mamoun's). When a friend recently raved about the falafel at Naomi's Kosher Pizza and Israeli Falafel, I knew Adeet and I would soon be visiting the restaurant in Kew Gardens Hills.

To get to Naomi's, we took the express train one stop past Jackson Heights and then caught a bus to Main Street. For a fairly short trip, we covered a good deal of cultural distance. The ubiquitous Hindi and Bengali of our neighborhood soon gave way to Hebrew. At Naomi's, Jewish prayers are posted above the communal sink, Israeli educational charts decorate the walls, and a news article in Hebrew is taped to the cash register. A faux palm tree and large mural of Jerusalem remind diners of falafel's Middle Eastern origins. However, I quickly remembered we were still in New York when I heard the staff speaking Spanish. The cashier didn't initially understand me when I ordered dessert, so I switched to espaƱol and got my chocolate pastry.

But we came for falafel, not rugelach. Adeet and I both had our sandwiches topped with tahini sauce and Israeli salad. I'd get the summery tomato and cucumber salad again, but next time I'll skip the tahini. It distracted from the falafel, which, in classic Iron Chef parlance, was "the real star of the dish." I pulled the chickpea balls out of the sandwich and ate them without the unnecessary bread and sauce. They tasted fresh and not at all heavy or greasy. The falafel had such a light texture that I had to double-check that it had been fried.

I'll go back to Naomi's, but I know other pitas will cross my plate. Last night, Adeet and I ran into an acquaintance having dinner with friends in Jackson Heights. After a round of introductions, our conversation quickly turned to food. As we compared notes, two men in the group recommended Sam's Falafel and Alan's Falafel, rival vendors in Liberty Plaza. I immediately started planning how to make it to the Financial District and back during my lunch break. It might be tricky, but I'll do it. Where there's a falafel, there's a way.

Naomi's Kosher Pizza and Israeli Falafel
68-28 Main Street • Queens, NY
photos by Adeet and Kate Deshmukh

1 comment:

tburman said...

Mitali found a nice Falafel place nearby. Despite not having any dead animals in it, I quite enjoyed it. Their sour chillies are awesome!