L'as du Fallafel's contender is Mi-Va-Mi, whose bright fluorescent signs scream at you to GOUTEZ et COMPAREZ and FALAFEL COMPLET 4€, among other relevatory prose. As soon as she knew I was going to Paris, Meg, who ate many falafels at Mi-Va-Mi (the exact number is unknown), insisted that I TASTE and COMPARE to further question how Lenny Kravitz's taste buds became the gold standard in the world of Parisian falafels.
sammiches and stuff
Last-last Wednesday, Diana and I ordered the same falafel pita sandwiches and glasses of lemonade to wash down the fried chickpea matter for our lunch. We unanimously decided that, mmm, this is some very good falafel.
Feeling the light crunch of my fork poking through the falafel's shell into its creamy innards already told me that the falafel was awesome without having to actually eat it. The crunch-factor is important, folks. First off, there should be crunchiness, otherwise the whole process of deep frying is pretty useless. The thing crust should quickly give way to moist innards, although I'm not sure I've ever seen them quite as creamy as Mi-Va-Mi's. Much better rich and creamy instead of brittle and dry, a combination I've tasted in falafel before and shall never be repeated again, except in hell.
The non-falafel ingredients in the pita also possessed high levels of awesome. In particular, chunks of grilled eggplant had magical butter-like qualities and an entire head of crunchy red cabbaged in chopped form seemed to be stuffed into the fluffy, chewy pita that was soft enough to be an angel's bed. Maybe the falafels were angel babies. And I ate the babies. And I damn well enjoyed eating the babies. I would have rather Mi-Va-Mi put in more eggplant and less cabbage, but it was still soooo goooood.
Besides the food, the restaurant feels less cramped than L'as du Fallafel. ...Perhaps because it doesn't have as many customers. But it should! And then some.
I highly recommend Mi-Va-Mi next time you're in the Marais (not during Sabbath, or else you'll be met with a depressingly unwelcoming and dark storefront) and crave falafel. And you know, should always be in the Marais and you should always be craving falafel. In a perfect world.
What do you do after you fill your belly with a falafel pita sandwich? You get dessert! And how convenient it is of Paris to put dessert destinations every couple of feet for us sugar addicts.
In addition to Mi-Va-Mi, Meg also recommended Boulangerie Malineau to me for good pain au chocolat. But something squishy and colorful in the window caught my eye first.
Oh dear god, it's a pile of marshmallow logs! What the hell? Where have these babies been all my life? Marshmallows are obviously better as a long rod of uncut-ness than chopped into individual pieces. It makes pinching off chunks of your desired length much more satisfying. The dusting of sugar on your fingertips after the violent de-congealing, the sticky, wrinkly stub left behind as you savor the airy combination of gelatin and egg white that makes you wonder why the hell anyone ever thought to mix the two ingredients in the first place and actually ingest the gooey mass. Oh, these are some of the greatest memories one can have. Really.
We lucked out by picking coconut for our first Parisian marshmallow experience. Other flavors included lemon, coffee, something fruity and something plain, none of which tasted as good or balanced as the coconut.
pain au chocolat
We also shared a pain au chocolat, which probably would've been shazamilicious (I think that means "very delicious", as for some reason just saying "very delicious" didn't seem appropriate) if it had been fresher or contained a stick of butter. But it was still very good and I liked its "double barrels of chocolate" configuration that made it easier to rip in two for sharing purposes.
We browsed around the nearby BHV to kill some time and possibly find a gift for Diana's baby brother in the toy section where I found one of the most awesome things in Paris for 1 euro (aside from a baguette, pain au chocolat, and other assorted baked goods): "HELLO KITTY WRAPPED IN FOOD"-DANGLY! God, I really should've kept dumping my 1€ coins into the machine until I amassed the whole collection of inexplicably food-wrapped giant-headed Hello Kitties (I wanted the gelato or macaron), but I restrained myself and stopped after two; one for me and one for Alex who had previously expressed desire for a cell phone dangly, except to his horror and mine later found out that his cell phone had no place for dangly implementation. Stupid French phone refusing to be accessorized with useless Japanese tchotchkes....[shakes first]
After leaving BHV with my 200% more Hello Kitty-fied bag, Diana and I met up with Alex and his friends Charlie and Sophie at Mariage Frères, the famed house of tea. Across the street from the cafe/tea shop is an extension of their tea shop for MAXIMUM TEA. You cannot escape it. And if you're with Charlie you will be constantly reminded that MF is the birthplace of tea jelly that tastes like babies. Delicious babies. Baabbbiiiesss.
"Ohhh, tea jelly, tastes like babiiiesss., delicious baaabiiiiies!" [insert growling "Jabba the Hutt"-like moan of pleasure, or something, as Charlie's eyes roll back into his head.]
I didn't try this tea jelly, but Charlie constantly reminded us of its nearly immeasurably tastiness, only comparable to the sweet, virgin flesh of newborn humans. Damn. That must be some good jelly.
Between the five of us, we shared three pots of tea. Regular tea come in these armored bowling ball-shaped pots to best keep in the warmth, or prevent the teapots from being damaged in a dog attack. Or a little bit of both.
crazy white tea
The star of the table was the crazy expensive white tea that came in its own magical glass pot accompanied by a magical strainer and a magical cup in a magical tray. These are the perks of being MAGICAL TEA. And my "magic" I mean "tastes like forest." And I don't mean a magical forest, I mean like a down-to-earth dirt-filled forest. With plants. And chlorophyll. This tea tasted like plant. Maybe that's your thing, I don't know.
Oh, I should tell you that I don't really like tea because it tends to remind me of dirty water. But I'll try it if it's good, you know? Even if it's wasted on me. My four neighboring tea drinkers were all quite into their fragrant liquids...
...While I was into marring the liquid with dainty silver paddle-fulls of nerds-sized sugar chunks. I probably would've been happy just eating the sugar. Yup, I'm that pathetic.
Charlie ordered some non-tea in the form of this beautiful open face sandwich platter made with matcha bread topped with crazy stuff like foie gras and less things of sea-origins. Foie gras trumps all else, you know.
After our afternoon tea, we look a gander at Colette, the intense gallery-esque design conscious store with a scary flash-based website featuring faceless robotic chipmunk voiced...god knows. So. The store is pretty cool. They were selling a cashmere sweater with a winged hamburger design, but it unfortunately cost something like a bagillion euros. Probably would've cost that much even if it weren't made of cashmere. Doh.
After going back to our apartment and probably killing time on the Internet, Diana and I went out again to meet up with Umami, Jessie and Adelyn for dinner at Inaniwa Umami-An near the Champs Elysees. I wanted to eat there after reading Umami's review of the non-sushi-centric restaurant and seeing that they had okonomiyaki, one of my favorite dishes that I almost never get to eat because few places make it. Everything was as good as Umami said it would be.
small bowls of stuff!
We started off with side dishes of nikujaga (pork and potatoes, like the best parts of beef stew) and a shredded vegetable...salad...thing. With carrots. And sesame. And I obviously did not take any notes.
We also all received complimentary bowls of shredded radish in some magical Japanese sauce that tasted awesome. Maybe it included sesame oil. God, I love sesame oil.
My favorite dish of the night was the lightly charred, rare-cooked steak, bursting with the juiciness and tenderness of pink cow flesh. If all steak tasted this good, I would freakin' eat more of it. Even the side vegetables tasted unfathomably good, maybe because they got some tasty mojo from the steak.
The pork okonomiyaki didn't disappoint either. It's a hearty savory cabbage-based pancake, crisp out the outside, soft on the inside, covered in okonomiyaki sauce (which apparently tastes a little like Worcestershire sauce, not that that tells me much since I don't know what Worcestershire sauce tastes like) and bonito flakes that creepily dance in the steam's heat waves.
I've never had the thin style of Japanese udon before. Noods can do no wrong when they're all soft and slightly chewy and luxuriously swimming in some savory broth made of I don't know what. I CAN'T DESCRIBE FOOD, okay? They're noodles! They're delicious! If you don't like them, you nutso!
We tried a great array of foodstuffs thanks to Umami's orderings skills. By the end of the night our bellies were satisfied without being too stuffed. Which means there was room for dessert.
Diana and Adelyn ordered green tea ice cream, but as I have a slight aversion to tea and a slight obsession with black sesame, I went with the black sesame crème brûlée. Although I think I prefer regular vanilla-laden crème brûlée to the black sesame version, it was delicious when I just looked at it as deluxe black sesame pudding topped with a sugary crust. It was a smidge heavier than I would've preferred, but burst with 250% toasted black sesame flavor. That's a lot. Good stuff, yes yes. Many thanks to Umami for filling our bellies with happiness (because great Japanese food equates to happiness, of course).
We took some group photos outside the restaurant with the help of Umami's husband who swung by the restaurant to say hello. One photo caught a passer-by to the right of us making a blurry wave to the camera. Ohhh, Frenchies, you are funny.