It's a little awkward when you're momentarily stumped as a close family friend asks you what you did during your eight day vacation in Paris that did not involve food. Worse is when your mother chimes in, revealing that almost all the photos taken on said vacation are shots of food.
I hope I'm not that one-dimensional.
But we were in Paris, for goodness sake! A new culinary experience may be had around every corner. I spent a lot of time preparing for the food aspect of our trip. I honestly didn't give a hoot what else we bothered with. A. and I have been to Paris quite a few times, so we'd already done our fair share of the touristy stuff. We wanted to walk and walk and walk around the city and drink (and eat!) it all in.
Don't get me wrong, we stumbled over plenty of important historic landmarks while we were in Paris. We strolled by the Sacre Coeur at night on our way back from a terrific little bistro in Monmartre called Chèri Bibi. I definitely glanced at Notre Dame whilst searching for the perfect place to enjoy a cone of Berthillon ice cream (salted caramel and bitter chocolate sorbet!). And slightly tipsy and full of rice pudding after a wonderful dinner at Chez L'Ami Jean, we wandered over to the Eiffel Tower and then along the Seine becoming more and more inebriated on the intoxicant that is Paris at night.
You get the idea.
In the end, you folks are reading this blog to hear about the food, not how extraordinary the Odilon Redon - The Prince of Dreams exhibition at the Grand Palais was. As a side note though, it was out-of-this-world and I would highly recommend it if you are in Paris before June 20, 2011. Sorry, not much time left.
I have to ease into the story. I'm overwhelmed by how much we ate. I ran seven miles yesterday in a continued attempt to wage war against certain side effects of eating your way through the French capital. So today I'll start with a smaller dining experience.
Perhaps you remember that I mentioned Lenny Kravitz' favorite falafel joint. Not that I would normally seek out Kravitz' favorite anything. I would not. But the people behind L'As du Fallafel think it is a major selling point. They display this fact prominently on their signage, which makes me laugh.
Turns out he does have great taste in falafel. So do a lot of people. L'As du Fallafel is on everyone's list of best cheap eats in Paris. I've been going there since 2003, when my dear friend Brian (Bri Bri! Thanks for the tips!) took my sister and I there during another ridiculous foodcation.
It is still really satisfying, particularly when you find that you are feeling just a little bit tired of all that French food. And trust me, you will find your palate longing for something other than la cuisine française when you are in France. This is especially true if you are from Los Angeles and partake of all the ethnic food that our diverse city has to offer. In wondering whether our family should actually pick up and pack up and move to Paris, I started panicking when I thought about how little spicy food I would be able avail myself of.
Obviously, there are trade-offs.
L'As du Fallafel is hugely popular. You'll always find a line, sometimes a very long line. If you take your falafel to go, the wait won't be nearly as taxing. Just be ready to order, because they are a rather brusque bunch.
I am unable to comment on the shwarma or anything else on the menu other than the falafel, because I am often a creature of habit and when I love something I do not want to jack up my order. I always choose the Fallafel Special.
It is a massive pita filled way past overflowing. It's not just falafel inside. Nope. You'll find mildly pickled red cabbage, crunchy grated cucumber, glorious fried eggplant, tahini and a moderately hot harissa. They asked me if I wanted hot sauce and I said lots! A little squirt was all I got, but that was no big thing, because the sandwich as a whole is soundly delicious.
The success of it hinges on the size of the falafel. They are small, so the oil is able to penetrate, producing a delightfully crispy yet moist little falafel. There are no ultra-dry parts right in the center of the fritter, which often happens elsewhere.
The to-go order is your best bet, but it is quite the handful and if you're alone (which I was) and juggling a giant purse and bags of goodies, you'll be challenged to be sure. I can't even begin to tell you how complicated it was to take the above photo. I must have looked like an insane American contortionist.
Ringing in at 7 euros, this will likely be one of the most affordable meals you'll find in Paris. It's the kind of tasty lunch that will fortify you and keep you happily walking along the cobblestone streets towards your next dinner.
L'As du Fallafel
34 Rue Des Rosiers
01 48 87 63 60