Mini-Review: Habibi's

I still remember my first encounter with falafel. It was my last year of high school and I was precipitously close to failing/dropping out. I spent a lot of time hanging out in the environs of the University of Melbourne, which was full of student flophouses, eclectic stores and exotic eateries. One time I found this corner store that served something I'd never heard of, called "falafel", so of course I tried it (an instance of the stray dog school of dining). I still remember biting into the Pita bread and the way the taste of the warm falafel dissolved into the mixture of Tahini, fresh lettuce and tomato. It was one of those taste sensations that get imprinted permanently into one's memory. Every falafel I have ever eaten since has been compared to that first one, and until recently all have been found wanting.

Until I tried Habibi's.

I can categorically state that the falafel sandwich at Habibi's surpasses the falafel of my memory. Not just once, but every time I've eaten at Habibi's.

But don't just stop there. Try EVERYTHING on the menu (which will probably require more than one visit). Everything is vegetarian. Everything is for sharing. Except maybe the Soup of the Day, which is always exquisite. Recommended: Fatouche, a salad of lettuce, mint, parsley and english cukes marinated in a sumac and olive oil dressing. The familiar items (Tabouli, two kinds of Homous, Baba Ganoush) are all wonderful. A couple of cheese dishes that shouldn't be missed are Lebneh and Shinkleesh.

No item on the menu is six bucks and all prices include tax. Two can have a gourmet experience for under $40.

Habibi's is also a perennial winner in the Vancouver magazine restaurant awards. This year it came in Silver in the Vegetarian category (Gold was snapped up by Lumiere, and Naam didn't even make the cut), and Silver in Best Cheap and Cheerful (after Hon's Wun-Tun House). It's won two awards a year ever since it opened, judging by the certificates on the wall.

Habibi's, #7-1128 West Broadway (604) 732-7487

Contributed by David Koop