I was so ready not to like this month's celebrity chef sandwich at Falafill (1053 Lake).
I had come to the conclusion that these sandwiches were like the recent wave of fancy-pants cocktails: just too much stuff put together, stuff that may not actually go together but which is somewhat exotic or somehow self-consciously cool-sounding.
The last couple of celebrity sandwiches I'd had at Falafill seemed, for the most part, loosely associated compositions of ingredients that clouded over the very pleasant taste of falafel with a load of largely extraneous stuff.
As for Dale Levitski, this month's celebrity chef creator of the featured Falafill sandwich, I had mixed feelings. I've eaten at his restaurant, Sprout (1417 W. Fullerton), and happened to be sitting next to another Chicago food writer. We both concluded his anchovy and lamb entrée was a combo of flavors that just didn't work together. Innovative, but overall a fail. I was ready for the same over-worked composition.
One bite of the Hibernator, this month's offering from Levitski, and my faith was restored in Falafill and Levitski.
This is a fantastic sandwich. It's a white flour pita pocket of regular falafel and curry falafel (mysteriously proclaimed on the menu board to be "a first"), with yogurt, frisee, julienned red onion, celery root and pears with red verjus…and steak.
It was the last element that initially threw me. Meat…red meat…really?
But it worked, oh man did it work. The meat, which was tender and of good quality, had a slightly woodsy flavor (like it'd maybe been grilled over fire), and the very light vinegary tang of the verjus popped the flavor way up. The frisee played a perfect green note, staying crisp despite the considerable moisture in the sandwich with lots of additional crunch from the onion and celery root. Yet despite all these flavors, the falafels, both flavors, were distinct and set off by the other components, which just seems right as it is, after all, a falafel sandwich.
This was a good sandwich, though at $7 not exactly a cheap sandwich, but way worth it – and you have only until the end of this month to try it.