When I first came to Paris ten years ago, I wasn’t looking so much for exquisite food experiences so much as cheap ones.
Luckily, I wasn’t alone in my quest: there were tons of guides detailing everything from pho joints where you could get a huge bowl of noodles for seven euro to bars that would give you free mussels and fries on Wednesday night if you bought a beer to the best place for an oversized shawarma after a night out. But one of the most popular cheap eats in Paris was – and remains – falafel.
I’ll admit that when I first started heading to the rue des Rosiers to get my falafel fix, I didn’t pay much attention to the five or six different shops that lined the street. L’As du Fallafel was always the favorite in any guidebook (famously frequented by Lenny Kravitz), and so it was to this green storefront that I came every time.
But of late, some reviewers have been touting the superiority of the falafel just across the street, at Mi-Va-Mi. And while I’ve long been faithful to l’As, I decided I needed to see what the fuss was about.
For science, you know.
Mi-Va-Mi’s red storefront tends not to have quite as many people lining up in front of it as l’As, but there’s still a steady stream. We picked up one falafel sandwich at each address (harissa, yes please!) and headed up to a nearby park to sample them.
Falafel from Mi-Va-Mi
Both sandwiches had pretty much the same general makeup: five or six crispy fried falafel balls, a mix of white and red cabbage, a healthy dose of tahini, a rather pitiful amount of fried eggplant, and some freshly chopped cucumber and tomato, all bundled into a pita.
The big difference I noticed right away was in the breads: Mi-Va-Mi uses a softer bread, whereas l’As uses a fairly standard pita – nothing special, but it definitely holds up to all of the fillings. Mi-Va-Mi also had fewer falafel balls than l’As, but they had the perfect texture: crisp on the outside and pillowy on the inside.
Falafel from l’As du Fallafel
My l’As standby, meanwhile, was not only a slightly larger sandwich, but it also had slightly larger falafel balls which (I hate to say it), while more flavorful, didn’t have the same perfect texture as their neighbors across the way. I don’t think it’s something I would have noticed if I were just eating l’As, but as far as comparisons go, these falafel balls were definitely tougher than the ones at Mi-Va-Mi.
So what’s the verdict? Honestly, both of these places are serving up a really fantastic sandwich for the same bargain price.
Knowing me, I’m probably going to stay loyal to l’As purely for nostalgic reasons. I do also like the larger size of the sandwich, and while the bread on its own is nothing special, it seems to hold up to the fillings better. That said, the individual falafel balls at Mi-Va-Mi are definitely worth going back a second (or third) time.