My search for the best falafel in New York continues….
Most people who are familiar with Azuri Café, know about the legend who runs the place. If Domenico DeMarco (from DiFara) is NY’s true pizza legend, then Ezra Cohen is no doubt the same for falafel. The Israeli chef is just as famous for his impeccable falafel pitas as he is for his often stern demeanor. This has earned him the unfortunate (and slightly inappropriate) nickname of the Falafel Nazi. Sure, I get the Seinfeld reference (there’s even a photo of the famous comedian with Cohen) but soup is not nearly as religious and political as Israeli falafel.
Whether I use the controversial moniker or not, I have often been to this tiny little shop in Hell’s Kitchen and in the past I would have crowned this the city’s best falafel. My most recent vist was late in the afternoon and I was shocked to not see Cohen behind the counter. Where was the falafel master? And would the sandwiches be as good as I remember?
The guy behind the counter happily made me a pita with everything. No doubt he was trained well since his stuffing skills were clean and efficient. Shortly after I took the pocket to a table, Ezra Cohen walked in. He must have been on break or something. I was expecting a musical fanfare when he entered, but it only played out in my head.
Azuri has always been known for its fresh and vast array of ingredients to go inside the pita. Ordering your sandwich with everything is a literal statement here. In addition to pickles, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, onions, you also get plenty of creamy tahini sauce, cilantro, hummus, and a unique (but balancing) mango sauce. And that’s just the easily identifable ingredients.
The balance of textures and flavors in the sandwich almost overshadowed the actual falafel. Sadly, they weren’t as transcendent as I recalled, but they were still good. These were formed into thin and tender hockey pucks (almost like a veggie burger) that fell apart upon touch. They had lots of crunch and earthy flavors, but I would have liked a softer interior.
Regardless, the master definitely still reigns supreme. From the soft pita to the crunchy falafel to the loaded sandwiches (which warrants the hefty $7 pita), Azuri might be the mecca of falafel in NYC. I’ve yet to discover another off-the-beaten path spot worth travelling to for a modest falafel sandwich.
Does Azuri Cafe have the best falafel in NY? I’m sticking to the legend with a 9 out of 10, even though the falafel might falter a bit when he steps out for a break.
|465 West 51st Street (at Tenth Avenue),