Azama

The first time I came here, I was wearing a blue full-body spandex suit, drunk from a party at my house, which was conveniently just around the corner. Some english language student from Dubai took down my number and texted me “good morning sweetie” a couple of mornings after that. He will never know what I look like and still thinks my name is blue.

My friend and I returned to highgate to stuff our faces with falafel rollup and fight over every last crumb of an order of egyptian seasoned fries (highly recommended).

I was surprised to have lived right around the corner from this Mediterranean gem for five whole months before I tried a falafel rollup…or had any Mediterranean food, at that. And for only $5…college kid dream. I craved more. I tried it again, sober, and it was better than I had remembered. I went back for more…more often than I’d like to admit. Then one spring night, it just didn’t feel right anymore.

It was the day I got a shawarma rollup, just to try it. I’d been getting falafel rollups on rollups for months, so I thought I’d try the shawarma out. I like shawarma – a lot actually – and this place was pretty solid, so I expected this rollup to cover a whole new spectrum of awesome. However, it was nothing but a disappointment. It was a bunch of meat rolled up in a saj wrap.

“Do you want hot sauce?” the chef asked as he was about to roll up my shawarma and toss it on the grill.

Hot sauce?!?! Could this be real life? I love hot sauce on everything – please, give me ALL the hot sauce. I enthusiastically accepted the offer.

My friend and I eagerly paid and power-walked back to the porch of highgate to devour our beloved Mediterranean treats. It was a late spring night, where you could almost feel summer in the air. I unwrapped the concoction and bit into a mouthful of lamb with an unfortunate excuse for ethnic hot sauce. I continued through it, as mouthfuls of hope became mouthfuls of disappointment. The lamb was alright, but I ordered a shawarma rollup, not a diced lamb. And the hot sauce, oy. It was very americanized, like a hot ketchup with a buffalo sauce consistency.

Disappointed with my shawarma, I thought it was just a fluke. Could Azama have lost its spark? Nah, it provided months of flawless falafel experiences at all hours of the day, from morning to late night. I was mistaken: the falafel had failed too. Unfortunately, Azama just lost its mojo.

The falafel itself is alright. Rough on the outside, condensed in the filling way on the inside. Solid consistency, not too flakey or anything like that. I feel like the falafel itself lost its touch, but that part could just be an exaggeration.

I feel like they used to decorate it more, with tomatoes and more seasoning. Something about this “Azama salad”  they claim to put in it in the description on the menu used to stand out and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the falafels have thinned out to say the least. There are some carrot shreds for show, but I don’t even like shredded carrots and I think it’s just for the color, anyway. All you really get out of it now, besides the base falafel and crummy hot sauce, is the lettuce (which adds a nice, fresh crunch) and a couple of cucumbers. Now I’m not sure if cucumbers are supposed to be pickles, or they just lied about pickles on the menu, but I’d like some real pickles, please. It’s the thing that brings the falafel above fresh and filling and adds the flavor. That and the tahini sauce, which is quite watery, but alright, flavor wise. They don’t even include HUMMUS.

Azama is a thing of the past for me. I have since moved and now live about two or three blocks away, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it. It was a drunk mistake just a couple of weeks ago, but let’s keep that on the DL. Although I have moved on, I have many friends who still love the place, so if you’re around Harvard Ave, stop in and grab one – it’s only $5.

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