‘Lebanese’ & ‘Vegetarian’ – Two consequential words which sound absolutely bizarre when brought together. Lebanese cuisine in simpler geographic terms would be belonging to the Middle East. Commonly the word ‘Lebanese’ is synonymous with Shawarmas, Doner Kebabs, Sliced Meat, Grilled Meat and some more Meat. ‘Falafel Lovers’ is here to buck the trend and enunciate that ‘Lebanese is not just about heavy duty meat’.
The lion hearted venture by Tapan Jain & Nupur Jain aims at highlighting some lesser known facets of Lebanese cuisine.
An abundant usage of whole grains such as lentils and chickpeas form the backbone of Lebanese cuisine. In fact, fruits, vegetables and bread combined outweigh the average amount of meat in an average Lebanese meal.
Lebanese food uses copious amounts of garlic, olive oil and also herbs, which impart the indigenous flavors to the cuisine.
Being very grounded in their approach, the concept of ‘course meals’ is alien here. Usually, the entire meal is presented all at once in different portions known as ‘Mezze’, something very peculiar to this form of cuisine.
Nestled in the lanes of Viman Nagar which already has a strong presence of other brands like Wild Sugar, Double Roti to name a few. Falafel Lovers has carved a niche for itself typically for two factors:
- Promulgating an ‘All Vegetarian Lebanese’ menu which is a first of its kind in the city.
2. A value for money option considering the swarm of students and youngsters in the adjoining vicinity.
‘Falafel Lovers’ offers a very elaborate set up having both indoor and outdoor seating. The indoor area has a wooden finish with inverted drums for tables and high back chairs. A mix of quirky furniture and signboards which resemble neon signs on highway Inns reflect the different moods of the place. The outdoor has the vibe of a quaint café with composed lights to keep the conversation flowing.
The menu is an assortment of Traditional Lebanese recipes of course, focusing on the green segment. They also have a few slightly offbeat fusion creations where the typical Lebanese staples have been infused with cross cultural recipes, say the Falafel Taco, the Pita Pizza Melts or even Sizzlers. An array of dips and fillings to cater to different palates is a plus. They have varied options which can satiate your finger food cravings or even full fledged meal essentials.
- Stuffed Falafel Bites (5/5)
Falafel stuffed with caramelized onions, jalapenos or mozzarella as per your choice is definitely the ‘star’ of the menu. Small deep fried patties made of chick peas batter is authentic and delicious. Having had brief stints with middle eastern cuisine, I could say the falafels were perfect in texture and appearance and thankfully not too oily (a plus one for that). #HighlyRecommended
- Garlic Pita with Hummus (4/5)
The pita bread toasted with butter and herbed garlic seemed a tad greasy but the dips made up for it. The hummus dip was pretty dope and totally worth a second helping. #HighlyRecommended
- Falafel (4/5)
Those amazing falafels stuffed inside pita pockets with a wide variety of flavors to choose from. Tried the Arabic & the Madrid variant and would recommend the Arabic version over the latter. The flavor of Roasted eggplant, cucumber pickle, tomato and labneh (spiced yoghurt) alongside falafels works magic and is truly scrumptious.
- Spaino Colli Pita Melt (3/5)
The pita goes Italian to give us pizzas with pita bread at the base. Topped with Spinach, broccoli, tomato, garlic and garnished with mozzarella cheese. The combination of bread and cheese defines comfort food for me – all smiles and spoons! A minus one for the broccoli on top though, had a hard time gulping that down.
- Hot Pita Pocket (3/5)
This dish blurs the negligible line between the pizza melt and the pita pockets. Pita bread stuffed with veggies, cheese and baked. Tried the veggie hot pocket variant and it was definitely not Hot! A lot of tanginess is ensured with tomatoes lined upto the brim.
- Manakish (4/5)
A traditional Levantine preparation consisting of dough topped with thyme, cheese and ground meat. The ground meat is of course replaced at Falafel Lovers with Cottage cheese, onion and zaatar spread. A different flavor and a worthy try from the menu.
- Tabbouleh (3/5)
The traditional lebanese salad. Burghul (dried wheat cereal) which tastes a lot like couscous is mixed with onion, parsley and pomegranate garnished with a lemon and garlic dressing is a refreshing change in the salad league. The portion size is filling and worth a try.
Lebanese Rice (2/5)
When you have had an overdose of pita bread, you do crave for some rice. The Lebanese rice was a tangy and colorful preparation better used as the base for sizzlers. As a lone qualifier without any accompaniment, it fails to impress. Definitely not something you seek while dining out.
The Dessert menu definitely needs some expansion. People like me who can binge on sweets alone found only two items to be rather surprising. The traditional ‘Baklawa’ and the ‘Sizzling Brownie with ice cream’ were the only contenders in the sugar-brigade. I would definitely love to see more in this category.
The mocktails had no particular Lebanese touch or essence and are modern day mixes of popular flavors. A very average fare overall, nothing worthy enough to leave a mark. A decent accompaniment alongside your meal and definitely needs some working on to catch up with the rest of the menu.
Sunrise Crush (3/5) A mixture of ripped pineapples and oranges is a decent take on citrus drinks. Not too sugary and retains the sweet n sour flavors.
Coconut Cream (2/5) Pineapple juice, coconut cream and vanilla ice cream blended to form a milk like drink. Not too thick and preferable only if you are a sucker for coconut flavors.
Lemon Surprise (3/5) Lemon, fresh parsley and sparkling mineral water come together to create a mojito sorts. A safe bet and probably the best from the lot.
Cranberry Fizz (2/5) Cranberry juice with a splash of lemon and cinnamon. The fizz wasn’t too apparent while the cinnamon flavor was almost negligible. You could skip this.
Disclaimer: This Review is based on a complimentary invite extended by Surya Sharma on behalf of Falafel Lovers Pune. The opinion expressed in the review is entirely my own and in no manner influenced by any party.