Sometimes you get a craving all of a sudden. For me, it was Mediterranean food. I got that sorted out quite quickly when meeting a friend for dinner.
Swipe. Unlock. Swipe. Yelp. The wondrous foodie app. A few more swipes on my trusty phone led me to suggest Pita Bar & Grill.
“I could compare their falafel to true Israeli falafel,” said my friend Erin, who had just come back from a trip to Israel.
“Have you had good falafel in LA as of yet?” I asked.
“No, only bad falafel,” she said.
* * *
Through Hollywood, down the busy Santa Monica Blvd, and onto Fairfax Ave. I spotted the restaurant and went through an alleyway behind the various storefronts to find the parking lot. Erin and I said our hellos and walked into the back entrance.
The place was casual. On the small side but well taken care of. We grabbed a menu on the way to a table.
As reference, Erin had her meals in Israel; I had my meals in Austin’s Tarbouch (great falafel) and Arpeggio Grill (memorable meals, perfect meats and hummus). I also had a reference for a bad meal, unfortunately. Mezes in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles had burnt meats. Hadn’t expected too much, seeing that it was situated in a strip mall right next to Hard Times Pizza Co., a no-frills pizza joint.
Erin: Falafel Sandwich / $6.75 with an Israeli Salad / $3.50
Smez: Shawarma Plate / $13.24
I ordered the Shawarma plate, which the menu describes as vertically broiled and thinly sliced, marinated meat with sides of hummus and pita, Israeli salad, and lentil rice. I got the chicken shawarma and requested falafel in place of rice.
Instead of my usual glass of water, I took advantage of the free drink you get after checking in on Yelp. (The freebie has not swayed my review.)
I sampled the mint lemonade. It was tasty and refreshing but it’d be tough to handle the overwhelming mint flavor in an entire cup. Next, I sampled the Rossata aqua fresca, made with almonds. (Yes, that’s aqua fresca not agua fresca.) It tasted like horchata, just a tad more watered down. I went with this one, the least offensive of the two.
At the table
The food came out and it all looked delicious. The pita had a slight char that I’m privy to, and the hummus was flavorful. It was not exactly on par with my preferred hummus at Arpeggio Grill, but Erin did give it props for a smoother consistency than can found in grocery store versions.
As for the rest of the meal, it was filling but below my expectations. The chicken was dry, hard at the edges, and lacked flavor; it was the worst part of the meal. Spice it up, please!
The salad was nothing special. It also had no flavor. At least it gave some relief from the super dry meat.
Now for the falafel. It was definitely different from what Erin and I have eaten. I noticed right away that the falafel here was not formed in a ball shape. It’s only half of that! I even brought it up with our server, in a non-belligerent manner, and he didn’t seem to know what I was talking about.
Not only that, but the outside was slightly hard, and the middle not as soft as it should be. It still had a decent enough flavor, considering its drawbacks. The falafel here was not as good as Israeli falafel, Erin reported.
Pros: good service – drink samples and substitutions were not a problem
Cons: quality of meal was not worth the price
Best thing on the plate: the hummus
* * *
The shawarma (which they misspell on the menu, just saying) disappointed. A gyro might’ve been a safer bet, but I don’t want to go back to find out. I’m moving on in hopes that the next Mediterranean restaurant gets me closer to a golden combination of good falafel, hummus, and shawarma.