Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tale of Two Falafels: Zankou Vs. Falafel Arax, Little Armenia/Hollywood

In honor of week 2 of Greek Orthodox fasting from any animal-that-bleed's products I have been becoming BFFs with the falafel. I already loved the falafel but now the relationship is getting a little more intimate than usual. I tried the two Little Armenia legends. You know who they are and you have an opinion of which is the best, so here is mine.

Falafel Arax is super authentic - mom and pop run, cash only, menu in Armenian and random Armenian mega hits singers posters arranged on the wall. The pop is whipping together the plates and frying the falafels while the mom is handling the dough (dollar bills, yo). I got the Falafel Plate for $6.50.
Opening up the bag is like Christmas. I get a bag of pitas to start, this is equivalent to getting travel sized shampoos and Lip Smackers in your stocking. Or an orange if you are 80+ and read blogs. In that case, +1 for you.
The plate comes with iceberg lettuce smothered in a tangy tahini - garlic dressing, pickled radishes, barrio worthy peppers and 5 made to order falafels. And a plastic fork. The dressing is heavy and so are the falafels. There almost needs to be more iceberg lettuce (and ugh, I hate iceberg) to cut the thickness of the dressing and the fry oil of the falafels. I burned myself a few times with the peppers.
Almost like easter...eggs.
Not bad, but the thick crust is questionable.
Next comes Zankou Chicken, known for their poultry and garlic sauce. Zankou has franchised out, become rich; resulting in serious family drama i.e. owner shot and killed sister. I was more skeptical. I thought I would love Falafel Arax so much more than a place that specializes in the type of meat I despise most.
I got the same kind of pita surprise with my falafel plate, obviously Zankou does not make their own.
The falafel plate ($8.50) does not come with lettuce - instead, a dosing of  an inverse volcanic hummus mountain and under dog garlic sauce. If you're looking for garden you can find a few shreds under the falafels. Same pickled turnips and hot peppers as Arax.  I almost thought the falafels were waiting under a heater for the next customer, yours truly, but I am not sure. I was too distracted by the diverse customers coming in for the chicken (mostly).
Some close ups. Oh yeah, hi, not a day goes by where I do not eat hummus. It's not a Greek thing either. Smooth, creamy, and just a tad garlicky hummus. The garlic sauce has lived up to its reputation. It's actually not even that crazy garlicky - the viscosity is its specialty.
And the falafel porn shot: the truth is, I liked Zankou's better. It had less of a hard-fried outer layering. It was  lighter, fresher and more delicate. I liked the hummus and garlic sauce. It was a few bucks extra but a little better. I still want Arax to win so I'd go back any day, which will most likely be soon.
Zankou Chicken
5065 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 665-7842

Falafel Arax
5101 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 663-9687


Diana said...

You should try Bella Pita in Westwood some time! So good and so cheap! Plus they have a condiments bar that is loaded with garden-friendly items.

Anna A. said...

Diana - How can I forget your onion sarcophagus mouth story?! I had a bite of my friend's bella pita once and swore to go back. Next West Side trip!

yutjangsah said...

I always get the salad at Zankou - it has loads of those pink pickled radishes which make me belch. I'm a belcher. This is why I try not to go to Zankou. The end.

Anna A. said...

Sook - the salad?? Hmmm ok next time I feel like belching I'll be sure to pick one up, and a beer.

Nancy Syndrella said...

I've heard a lot of time about salad at Zankou but have not get any chance to take it by going there. I hope I will able to enjoy it soon. Thanks