When Ed and I passed a sign outside Ashkara in the Lower East Side declaring, "The Best Falafel in New York," our destiny was clear: We had to try it. Our expectations were built up even more when we spotted another sign in the restaurant that read, "Warning: Our falafel is addictive." You can't ignore that kind of confidence.
While we wouldn't necessarily call Ashkara's falafel the absolute best in the city (Ed and I recommend Taim for having the best falafel), it was easily one of the better falafels we've had.
Like popular falafel chain Maoz, Ashkara has a "shove in as much as you want" toppings bar for your pita sandwiches. It features pickles, olives, fried cauliflower, carrots, cucumber salad, and more.
As I have no intuitive pita sandwich-making skills, this kind of freedom of choice doesn't work well for me—I treated my sandwich like a buffet plate and piled in more toppings than I should have, probably upsetting the delicate balance of falafel-to-non-falafel-matter. But whatever I piled in tasted good, my favorite being the fried cauliflower. I'd prefer the ability to disperse the toppings throughout the inner falafel goodness.
I tore through the toppings to reach the heart of fried mashed chickpea. First bite was a thumbs up. Along with the second, third, and so forth. The falafels were crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, light in texture, and had a good flavor. Ed and I would only complain that they were more moist than we would've preferred, but they weren't mushy, which would've earned an automatic fail.
Another plus was the freshly baked pita bread. Few things disappoint me as much as eating a falafel pita sandwich where the pita is about as sturdy and thick as a paper towel and practically disintegrates as you eat it. Ashkara's pita was fluffy and soft and stood up to its fillings.
I wouldn't go out of my way to eat at Ashkara, but if I had a hankering for a falafel in the Lower East Side, it'd be my pick.
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