Operation: Falafel has opened at the (still to open) Ribbon in Motor City. And it’s a big, swanky branch already pulsing with the hustle and bustle one would expect from a far more established player, not from (as they are) new kids on the block. Is Motor City so deprived of good eateries? Maybe. Yeah. I’d be one chuffed, rubbing hands together in glee restaurateur if I was the owner of this franchise; I got there around 20:00 and it was near full, inside and out. But what raised my right brow were the number of deliveries (literally) flying out the door – incredible. Good for them.
I am a big fan of home grown franchises and O:F is right up there with the best of them. Not because I like their food. I don’t. I like them because of their modernist presentation of Levantine street food. See, these guys have gone the opposite direction of the likes of Zaroob, Man’oushe Street, Leila, etc. who flaunt retro to appeal to their target consumers. O:F portraits itself in a very western way, and this includes its branding. Take the word falafel out of the brand and it could easily be mistaken for a European or American franchise. For some reason, whenever I am at an O:F outlet, I am reminded of Chipotle in the US.
I was seated in-front of their two shawarma spits and almost by default ordered one – chicken. Now I have heard of small shawarmas but O:F’s ‘small’ takes the small, 2-bite shawarma to a whole new level. This little thing was teeny-weeny…cute almost. I initially didn’t want to eat it for fear of hurting the poor thing. And I made the added mistake of asking for it ‘spicy’ (the first mistake was asking for it small). So what I ended up with was a Thumbelina-sized shawarma, laced with red chili paste so salty it was almost inedible. But I was really, really hungry and wolfed it down in exactly two and a half chomps…and a burp.
I then ordered some falafel (four to be exact). But no, no, no, they were not at all nice; small, greasy and devoid of taste. The falafels at Géant in Arabian Ranches are miles better.
I was still hungry (do not presume to judge me) so I ordered a regular (small) falafel sandwich. And yesssss, finally something to write about. They have a spicy version but I was sure this would come with the same salty chili paste as my chicken shawarma so I ordered the ‘regular’ with chili on the side. This reminded of when my friends and I visited Brunswick last week for an after lunch coffee. Two of us ordered cappuccinos and the third an espresso. Our coffees arrived, the cappuccinos amazing but the espresso undrinkably sour. With raised eyebrows and shoulders the bewildered bartender (a super friendly Serb) explained that he had used the same ‘undrinkable’ espresso in our cappuccinos. How it tasted so good blended into a cappuccino is the same mystery as how those awful falafels tasted so good in a wrap.
So, irrespective of the fact that I’m still so-so about their food, a double thumbs up to Operation: Falafel. They are a refreshing addition to the humdrum Motor City culinary scene. I reserve final judgement till I have had the chance to sample their breakfast which, one of their smiley Filipino staff assured me, is nothing less than amazing. Let’s see. Watch this space.