Yoffi Falafelby Ella Grimwade / Images by Robin Bernstein / 23.10.2013
Spicy with a crunchy crust, a soft centred, and with an aroma that floats down the street. When it comes to falafel only the finest, and freshest will do.
Although Turkey, Palestine and Lebanon have all laid claim to creating the culinary delight. Many of the African nations, ranging from Egypt to Morocco can all stake a reputable claim to having founded the falafel, or at least a derivative of it. Originating as a street side snack, wherever the first falafel was gobbled, it has since become an worldwide favourite.
Following in the footsteps of kebabs and burritos, falafel appear to be becoming one of the latest foodie fads. Ever on the lookout for the next bandwagon to jump on, international supermarkets and fast food chains are increasingly producing heat-at-home or mass-produced falafel in streets across the globe.
Unfortunately, this has heralded a decline in the quality of falafel. Yep, the foodie’s affair with falafel is well and truly hitting the big time, but the overall consistency of a quality lunch is increasingly unlikely as falafel becomes more mainstream. Given my high standards (and some recent disappointments), it was with some trepidation that I ventured into Yoffi Falafel on the Muizenberg Surfer’s Corner one fine Monday lunchtime.
It is true that the finest falafel have come from the most basic, modest settings. The good folk at Yoffi Falafel do not pander to fanciful pomp or ceremony. The dining area is light and clean; one wall is painted with an image of the beach and those rainbow huts, while the real ones are visible through the window. Perhaps a little tacky, but the apparently recycled tables (of which there were only 2) have a rustic charm and the general simplicity of the dining area is refreshingly unfussy. This place doesn’t need to deck itself out in gaudy glad-rags. The food can speak for itself. Many would-be falafelers have over-complicated the recipe, adding pesto or piri-piri. This is not the case with Yoffi’s. A simple sign on the corner spells out the wares, “FALAFEL”, and nothing more is needed.
The menu is reasonable priced, with offerings ranging from 20R for a humus plate to chicken pockets and falafel pita at 38R, and though not extensive, the menu is broad enough for a little choice. Customers are even given the opportunity to adapt their order, “would you like chilli sauce?” and the helpful staff are only to willing to accommodate your preferences. Delicious looking fresh baked muffins were on the counter, priced at 12R, and a selection of beverages from Chai tea and cappuccino to the standard Appletiser and Cola are also on hand.
The pita bread was soft, and lightly toasted so as to keep the contents warm. The falafel are complimented by an interesting and authentically tabbouleh style salad. Think roasted aubergine, avocado, purple cabbage, tomato, cucumber and lettuce, along with other delights beyond my identification. Then a generous dollop of humus and drizzling of tahini sauce to ensure moistness. Now for the falafel: smaller in size than I am accustomed to you are certainly not short changed, I counted 7 falafel in my pita, each an explosion of warmth, texture, and flavour.
Each serving is undergone individually (no mass-produced rubbish here) so although you have a bit of a wait, particularly if it’s a group order, I appreciate the total focus exerted into each pita pocket. The staff set you out with plate and fork, but the pita’s are delivered in simple brown paper-bags, reminiscent of the street side vendors from which the meal originates. The fork and napkin, though touching details, were utterly superfluous. Falafel are finger food at its finest.
Although slightly lacking in finesse, falafel are a sociable snack, the kind to be consumed with company, this café maintains a friendly aura. In fact, I was surprised by the lack of a crowd, but maybe that’s because the swell was low. Hugging the corner of the beachfront brasseries in Muizenberg, Yoffi Falafel is an innocuous little café, a treasure.
Yoffi Falafel, Surfer’s Corner, Muizenberg. Closed Tuesdays and relocates to the Bluebird Market on Friday afternoons.
* Images © Robin Bernstein