A fresh take on falafel comes to Mile End

We tried the Israeli-style sandwiches and salads at Falafel Yoni.

Falafel sandwich, fries and zatar mayo

Yoni Amir and his best friend Daniel Maislan both love falafel and they want you to love falafel, so they’ve opened Falafel Yoni to bring their fresh take on the Middle Eastern staple to Montreal, now in its second month of slinging its crispy goods.

The idea to offer “proper” falafel in Montreal was sparked a couple of years ago during Amir’s visit to see family in Israel. He was struck by how there were falafel joints everywhere. “Every time I visit Israel, I want falafel. I wanted to have the same experience at home in Montreal.”

Amir didn’t have any restaurant experience at all prior to this new operation, so on a trip to Tel Aviv in August 2017, he completed stages at falafel joints. “The time I spent there was tremendously important, (but) not from a recipe standpoint. Our recipes didn’t change after staging in Israel,” he explains. “What I went for and what I learned, was how the owners operated their businesses: how many people they needed on the line during service, and who did what; how was the mise en place done in the scale that was necessary and efficient?” As for Maislan, he provides a lot of technical know-how from spending 15 years in the food industry, most recently cooking at the Singaporean street food restaurant Satay Brothers.

Falafel salad

The next step was finding a location. Amir lives nearby, and between spending a lot of time in Mile End and having exposure to his sister’s businesses — Sefi Amir of Lawrence, Larry’s and Boucherie Lawrence fame — gave him a feel for the hot spots and places with the best foot traffic in the neighbourhood. “The location was hugely important,” says Amir. “We passed on a few spaces a block north and a block south.”

On the sleek and airy design of the space, Amir doesn’t deny his good fortunes. “I’m lucky to count some really great talents among my best friends. I wanted a hand-washing station as a design element, for instance. David Dworkind took that and ran with it, designing the sink from scratch, which would later be fabricated from hot rolled steel and powder-coated. We based the colour scheme around the floor that was in the space.” The signage and branding elements — including the satisfied looking kid holding a falafel — are the work of Dan Climan of Bait & Schlang Tattoo.

The stream-lined menu is just seven items, with almost all ingredients prepared on-site. They even roast and grind their own spices; the only exception is the pita. It has a huge impact on the food, resulting in complex and satisfying flavours. The falafel have the perfect ratio of crispy on the outside and tender, savory inside.  They’re served in a sandwich ($8 or $5 for a half), or as part of a salad, both of which are garnished with pickled cabbage, tahini sauce, labneh and Israeli salad — a finely diced blend of cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, mint and lemon. Another option is to have them as part of the hummus plate ($10) served with pita, pickles and peppers.  Their deep-fry technique extends to their fries as well ($4), with the extra zip with za’atar mayo for dipping. A refreshing accompaniment is the limonana ($4), minty lemonade that tastes of summer. Also available is the Sabich, a popular Israeli pita sandwich with fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, hummus, tahini sauce, Israeli salad and pickles ($9). For dessert? A three-bite (I finished it in two) chocolate-tahini ball ($1.50), a rich, fudgy morsel rolled in your choice of cocoa, coconut or sprinkles.

With this focused selection, Amir and Maislan have greater ease when making a commitment to quality. “We wanted to do (only a) few things and do them well. A falafel joint in Israel typically does just that, falafel. We aren’t reinventing the wheel. We’re just trying to bring a product and experience that is ubiquitous throughout the Middle East to Montreal.” 

Falafel Yoni

54 St-Viateur W.

(514) 424-7767