Now that the magazines of New York have stopped insisting that a pretty good bar burger on a paper plate is the best the city has to offer, it is much more interesting to peruse their "best of" lists. New York Magazine put out their first "Best of '06" issue last week. My first foray into their list was to try The Best Falafel, which is said to be at Taim.
Taim is on the bit of Waverly just north-ish of where it hits 7th Ave. It is a tiny little storefront, exactly deep enough on the street for it to be off the beaten path. It is a quaint little space with a counter, five stools and a chalkboard. The menu in a nutshell, offers falafel. There are three types to choose from and salads to accompany, but it is a falafel shop. Just like Burger Joint (the real best burger in NYC) is just burgers and fries, Taim is just falafel, fries and salads that can go on or next to falafel.
My standard falafel order at the standard falafel shop (Mamoun’s included) is a falafel sandwich with hummus, tahini and hot sauce. At Taim, the hummus and tahini are standard so my choices were green, roasted red pepper, or harissa falafel and white or whole wheat pita. Although I was intrigued by the options, in the interest of comparing apples to apples I got the green in whole wheat with hot sauce.
The first thing that happened was fresh green falafel mix was formed into compact balls, about 1.5 inches in diameter, a plus because the bigger versions must be squished to fit in the pita which dissipates the already disappearing heat inherent to falafel. Next, the falafel went into the oil (again a benefit because the warmers pre-cooked falafels are usually kept in both fail to keep them warm and lose them a bit of the crunch on the outside). Then, the whole-wheat pita was thrown in an oven to warm.
About 5 minutes later the sandwich was assembled. The bottom of the pita was well coated with hummus, a shot of a green hot sauce was put in, a chopped salad of lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, onions and parsley was added, then the tahini and then the falafel balls. This arrangement had the benefit of letting the falafels kind of stand alone at the top which was merited because they are great. Good crunch, various and detectable spices, good heat (calliente, not picante) all together a fresh experience. The falafel was as green on the inside as any other color, none of the grayness or yellow-brownness of other falafel, which I think translated to its fresh flavor. The order of the stacking did have a downside in that the hot sauce settled with the hummus in the bottom so the last four or five bites were more like eating a hummus dip than a falafel sandwich.
Best Falafel I have had in NY? Sure. Now that I have had them I think I will prefer the platters I saw going out with herbed toasted pita, and sampling some of Taim's other types of falafel. To be fair, I had to start with my standard sandwich which may have handicapped them, but they still win so I imagine doing it their way it has to be even better. Imagine that.