Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Amsterdam Falafel and Kabob

Restaurant: Amsterdam Falafel and Kabob
Address: 620 N 50th St
Genres: mediterranean
Check Constraints: None, it's short-order.
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Falafel Sandwich w Garlic Herb Sauce ($5)
  • Döner Kebab w Spicy Sauce ($5.50)
  • Curry Fries ($2)
  • Diet Coke ($1)
It would be very easy, walking by the place, to dismiss Amsterdam Falafel and Kabob as a hole in the wall gyro joint, striving for some sort of hipster pastiche decor and trying to lure customers via nothing more than flim-flammery. But if you did that, you would be depriving yourself of one of the most interesting takes on Mediterranean cuisine I've ever had, and you would be worse off for it.

For starters, the restaurant has only three things on the menu. That kind of culinary direction is really rare in an age when people seem to be adding more and more menu items in the hopes that they can satisfy everyone at once and claim some kind of Highlander-esque victory over other restaurants. There are places that can pull this off and still do well (see: Wheatfield's), but when you do this, you run the risk of delivering subquality portions of a lot of things. AFK (as they cleverly call themselves) seems to have dispensed with this mindset - they do three things, and they do them very, very well.

Okay, technically they have a fourth item on the menu in the store - a hummus plate - but it's not really a new food item, since you could get hummus on any of the sandwiches.

The sandwiches were fantastic. The döner kebob was delicious, especially with the spicy sauce, which was actually spicy to me! The falafel was perfectly cooked and nicely flavored, though the garlic herb sauce could have used a little more zip for my tastes. Neither of their sandwiches were served in pitas, as I was expecting, but rather in pockets of bread which could best be described as pita crossed with ciabata. It was pretty good bread, and as I said good meat/falafel and sauce, but what set the sandwiches apart were the toppings. Carrots, red cabbage, chickpeas, cucumber, and some unidentified diced white topping - all of which falls under "vegetable salad" on the menu - lent some good flavor variation to an already delicious sandwich. And they're large. I came just short of finishing both sandwiches, and I was pretty hungry that day.

The sandwiches are perfectly complemented by the curry fries. The fries are thin - not quite shoestring, but definitely not steak fries either - and they're served with a healthy dose of curry powder. They smell wonderfully of cumin and coriander, and if you eat them with your fingers, the turmeric will turn them yellow, so they helpfully provide you with a plastic chip fork, which is an implement I haven't seen since I visited the U.K. back in 1998.

Seating is a little sparse, but if it isn't pouring out like it was when we visited, you could easily take the food outside and enjoy the day in the Dundee area. Additionally, the place is open incredibly late (11 PM Mon-Wed, 2 AM Thurs-Sat), so if you're out late drinking at the Dundee Dell or Beer and Loathing in Dundee (which we have to visit at SOME point, I mean come on), you could definitely drop by for what that fabulously foul taco hell has dubbed "Fourthmeal". With food this good at prices this reasonable, it's hard to go wrong.

  • Döner Kebab w Garlic Herb Sauce ($5.50)
  • Curry Fries ($2)
  • Strawberry Fanta ($1)
With such a limited menu and Art's already thorough exposition, there's not a whole lot more for me to contribute, except maybe to give a better image of what you should expect from this place. Go to their website. I'll link it again here, so you don't have to scroll up: That picture right in the middle of the page--the one that smashes you in the face when you visit the site--is untouched. That's exactly how the kebab looks and tastes. There is no ad agency trickery going on here (except for the shots of the dining room. It's not nearly as large as they make it look in the pictures. The photographer must have been backed against the wall behind the counter to achieve that shot). It is pure delicious with a bread handle.

  • Falafel w Garlic Herb Sauce ($5.00)
  • Curry Fries ($2)
  • Diet Coke ($1)
The falafel is a similar setup to the kabob but with chickpea patties (falafel) instead of meat. The center picture on the bottom of the front page of their site is the falafel. The patties made it a vegetarian meal if you are aiming for that. The garlic herb sauce was light on garlic and a bit heavier on herb. I was a bit confused on the sauce selection the way they said it. I thought "spicy garlic" and "herb", but it's really "spicy" or "garlic and herb". The fries are tasty as is, but note that the seasoning isn't very strong. I got ketchup on the side as a precaution, and it wasn't needed. It drowned out the other flavors pretty well. The drinks are actually cans of soda. A dollar might be a bit pricy for a can, but it seems typical at places that do cans.

  • Falafel w Spicy and Garlic Sauce + Hummus ($5.00 + 0.50)
  • Curry Fries ($2)
  • Grape Fanta ($1)
Soda in dollar cans makes me sad. At least they had non-caffinated options.

On the bright side, the meal was full of complex and interesting flavors, and that makes it an experience worth having. I don't know that I loved it, but I do know that I enjoyed the mix of flavors and textures in the falafel, and the price is, while seeming slightly expensive at first, not particularly abnormal (one might note that Chipotle's prices are in a similar range for a similar type of meal, although of a different ethnicity.) There was some good heat in the spicy option, but it wasn't killer heat, and that works just fine for me. In addition, the curry fries were really good, and either I have jaundice or didn't notice my fingers turning colors. If I weren't so far away, I might go more often, but I wouldn't turn it down.

(Also, there is a fourth thing on the menu, in the store, which was a Falafel Plate for 4 bucks. None of us got it. It remains a slight mystery.)


snekse said...

I just found your site. AWESOME! This kind of group review was exactly what I had in mind when I started my site.

Here's our review of AFK.

From a fellow geek, keep up the great work.

Chamelaeon said...

Thanks for the comment (our first one, hooray)!

We actually stumbled across your site earlier, when we were idly looking around for other Omaha food blogs, etc. Your post on morel hunting brought back some delicious memories - my uncle sometimes finds them just out and about on his property back in Indiana. His favorite recipe was a soup... I don't remember what was in it. Now I have to find out.

Thanks for the encouragement. We've got enough steam to keep going for a while... there's still tons of places to eat!