By Kathryne Grisim (@foodmuser)
For decades Ami Hassan has been a fixture at the River Heights restaurant he owns and operates.
He is typically visible in the open kitchen putting his special flair onto Middle Eastern dishes. I have known him to leave his station and come into the dining room to admonish patrons for lingering too long over coffee, declaring that he needed the space for hungry customers.
On this day, my dining companion and I met for an early lunch and I was surprised to find the Falafel Place already busy. Perhaps they were still there from breakfast as the restaurant does have an all-day menu.
My lunch date was drawn to the breakfast section and ordered a falafel breakfast complete with two eggs, eight falafel balls (essentially a spiced chick pea fritter), tahini (sesame seed sauce), hummus and pita wedges. For good measure and to share her fare, she ordered a side of potato pancakes (latkes) topped with garlic, onions and peppers. She oohed and ahhed while savouring every taste but made specific remarks about the perfectly cooked, over-easy eggs and that the potato pancakes were delightfully crispy on the outside and silky in the middle. I tasted the falafel and those pancakes and wholeheartedly agree with her assessment.
I have travelled to Israel and my favourite cookbook is entitled Jerusalem, so I consider myself acquainted with the tabbouleh salad-making technique. Essentially the salad is a parsley/bulgur one, with different ratios of the two ingredients depending on which regional variant of the salad you’re making, or your personal preference. There is a warning in my cookbook that “other elements need to be handled carefully.” I made a judgment error with my order, because I was craving a traditional tabbouleh salad with fresh tastes of parsley and mint. Ami’s emphasizes slices of vegetables.
I had been torn when I saw spanakopita on the menu, so we ordered it to share. As you likely know, the spinach dish wrapped in a crunchy phyllo is a Greek specialty and it is not intended as a criticism when I say that Winnipeg Greek restaurant’s spanakopita recipes are much better.
Enjoy Ami’s specialties and you will be more than impressed.
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