Wednesday, July 23, 2014

You will ride to Freiha

Dear Montreal reader, you will ride your bicycle through pretty neighbourhoods, tree-lined streets, and scenic riverside parks. At the end of your ride, you will eat something special.

Parc des Bateliers

You will start at Parc Lafontaine. There, you shall catch the northbound bicycle path on Rue Brébeuf. You will ride it all the way up to Boulevard Gouin, at the northern edge of the island. You will then turn left and follow the bicycle route. You will pass through a series of tranquil streets and verdant riverside parks until you reach the Lachapelle Bridge, at the very end of Boulevard Laurentien. Use the pathway on the west side of the Lachapelle Bridge to cross over to Laval, the mighty metropolis of Jesus Island. Turn left off the bridge and go around the futuristic school building to get to Boulevard Lévesque.

The architecture of Laval

From Lévesque, you will turn right onto 81st Avenue. You will follow 81st two blocks up, until Boulevard Pérron. There, you will turn. Your destination is Falafel Freiha at 3858 Pérron.

The Mighty Freiha

Freiha is a hyper-specialist: there is no sish taouk, shawarma, greasy potatoes or garlic sauce—only falafel. The menu offers two choices: a regular sandwich (two balls) or an “extra” sandwich (three balls). That’s it.

The key to Freiha’s supremacy is that the falafels are fried in small batches. They don’t sit under a hot lamp, and they certainly do not get reheated in microwave. When you order a sandwich, the balls are always warm and delightfully crusty, never more than a few minutes out of the fryer.

The wisdom of Freiha

The toppings are also unlike the competition. As per usual, there are tomatoes and those alarmingly pink pickled turnips. However, there are also pickled Lebanese cucumbers and, most crucially, big handfuls of coarsely chopped fresh mint and parsley. All of this is doused generously in a most unctuous tarator (sesame) sauce—so thick that it has to be scooped on, not squirted from a plastic squeeze bottle like everywhere else.

The juxtaposition of flavours and textures—the warm and crunchy balls, the cool and crisp pickles, the gooey sauce—and the copious herbs in Freiha’s falafel sandwiches are a delight under any circumstance. With an appetite sharpened by a scenic, 20 km bicycle ride, eating one is a near-ecstatic experience.

Do not expect friendly service or any smiles. You are here for the falafel, not for an exchange of phoney pleasantries. Good appetite.

Yes.

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