The first falafel I ever had was in Paris, France at a place called L'as du Falafel, located in Marais, a predominantly Jewish district of the city. It was the only place we ate at twice and I know I would have been glad to eat there every afternoon of our eight-day stay. To date, it is the best falafel I have ever had.
At L'as du Falafel the pita bread doubles as a bowl, which they then load up with the falafel, shredded cabbage and other fresh veggies, give you a fork and send you on your merry way (I was definitely covered in sauce after my attempt to make like the Parisians who surrounded me and eat it while walking around the Marais...fail!)
At this time I was vegetarian and not yet vegan, so I can't guarantee their falafel are vegan-friendly. If I remember correctly, they served them up with a tangy tzatziki sauce, which is not traditionally vegan however I remember the falafel balls being so flavourful that you could skip sauce altogether and not be devastated.
I've tried various pita-based establishments around here and nothing has even come close. I've also tried to make them at home but my attempts pretty much sucked in the taste department. I think I've figured out the problem, though - all previous falafel attempts were baked and not fried (in an effort to be a bit more health conscious, of course).
Now, I don't want this to be construed as me condoning frying. For the most part I think the frying method is used and abused in our North American culture and our arteries are suffering for it. However, when it comes to falafel - and I can't believe I'm going to say it - the flavour and authenticity come out of the frying pan.
I had decided to call in the "find me a great falafel on this side of the Atlantic" search party when I remembered seeing Isa's recipe for them in Vegan with a Vengeance. In the book she talks about singing songs about falafel at Jewish camp as a kid so I figured I better give her recipe a chance before assuming I would be falafel-less until once again finding myself wandering the streets of Paris.
Ohhh. So good. So so so good and SO close to what I had at L'as du Falafel a year and a half ago. Paul also gave the meal a win, despite claiming to be not much of a falafel man.
Build your own falafel night is a super fun alternative to build your own taco night:
The sauce you see (very poorly) pictured on the right is a creamy tahini, also featured in Vegan with a Vengeance.
The only problem now is that I want to eat this every single day.