Dish: Dutch Treat in Davis Square

Falafel gets a makeover with all the fixings at the Amsterdam Falafelshop
a falafel sandwich with all the fixings
The fixings for the falafel include a fiery jalapeno cilantro topping. Photo: Alonso Nichols
November 13, 2012

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This is one in an occasional series about eating establishments in neighborhoods near Tufts’ three campuses. Have a suggestion for a place for our roving diners to explore? Email us at now@tufts.edu. You can also follow Dish on Foursquare.

Behold the lowly falafel orb. In-law to the homely veggie burger, its modest appeal precludes a sexy culinary trend ever being launched in its name. Yet even the casual partaker of Middle Eastern cuisine will know that not all falafels are created equal. Many have shared the unpleasant experience of choking down hockey puck counterfeits that do discredit to the dish’s name. Worthy renditions in fact exist, if you can get to Watertown (Fordee’s), the Cambridgeside Galleria (Sepal) or the Cambridge-Belmont line (Sofra). Closest to Tufts is the estimable Café Barada, just a brief amble out to Mass. Ave. from Davis Square.

So it’s a cause for gratitude that Amsterdam Falafelshop has opened in Somerville. The menu represents a model of practical economy: good quality falafel with enough self-served accompaniments to satisfy most anyone to whom this dish might appeal. Add a dash of European cachet, plus French fries, et voilà—fashionable fast food for the Davis Square crowd.

According to owner Matt D’Alessio, his falafel is chickpea-based and gluten-free. It’s made in-house, as are the self-pumped sauces—tahini, peanut, curry ketchup and Dutch mayo (mustard and sugar added) for the fritten (aka fries). A selection of bottled hot sauces is conveniently arrayed for easy access.

Photo: Alonso Nichols

The fried foods are wisely restricted to those that make the best case for the calories: a creditable falafel and French fries double fried to order. Canola oil is the healthy-choice frying medium, and eggplant is the only item on the bar of add-ons prepared that way, a judicious decision.

I’ll admit to being gobsmacked by the profusion of salad and relish selections but even more by their generally high quality. Among them are a zesty Turkish salad, nicely executed pickled cauliflower and the traditionally offered turnip pickles dyed red from lying with beets, any of which provide welcome contrast to the mildly flavored hummus and baba ghannouj. Best of all is a fiery jalapeño cilantro topping, an invitingly vibrant green.

In bread or on a plate, your creation is placed on a scale at the register and sold by weight. Photo: Alonso NicholsThe chipper staff has been trained to school newbies in the proper technique of smashing the crispy globes in order to cram a slew of extras into the white or whole-wheat pita rounds. I noticed some patrons choosing to ignore standard protocol by skipping the bread and instead piling everything on a plate. Either way your creation is placed on a scale at the register and sold by weight.

Late-night munchers will approve of the Thursday through Saturday midnight closing hours; it’s 10:30 p.m. the rest of the week. Well-considered concepts like Amsterdam Falafelshop foretell a positive trend for locals in search of a tasty bite at a fair price. It’s a given that nobody’s expecting fast food transformed into a beautiful swan, so this place is easy to recommend. Makeover accomplished, pass it along: Don’t fear the falafel.

Amsterdam Falafelshop, 248 Elm St., Somerville, is open Sunday–Wednesday, 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m.; Thursday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–midnight. 617.764.3334. For more information, go to www.falafelshop.com.

Fred Kalil can be reached at frederick.kalil@tufts.edu.

Read earlier entries at the Dish series page.

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