** This store is permanently closed **

Why haven’t I known about this? Freshly-made pita & made-to-order falafel right here in Tokyo since 1993? Was my honing device recalled? I could not sniff-out such extraordinary food? In an average week, I may think about falafel once or twice. And yet, Pita the Great is news–great news to me.

I’m not alone on this. Falafel, or falafel sandwiches, have been treasured since earliest of times, said to have originated in Egypt. Made and scarfed-down in many Middle Eastern countries as street food, falafel has certainly gained popularity in the Western and Eastern/Asian world. Packed with protein from fava and/or garbanzo beans, depending on the regional recipe, falafel sandwiches are made by placing or packing these fried orbs between fresh pita, and then saucing them up with hummus or tahini, a sauce made from sesame seeds and olive oil. Various herbs are thrown into the pita and many standup falafel shops offer condiments like purple cabbage, pickles, harissa hot sauce, and sauerkraut. Pita the Great offers all of these condiments (sans purple cabbage & pickles), adding layers of taste and texture to your already wonderful falafel sandwich.

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Pile it on, please! | Photo by Melissa Uchiyama

Uri, the operations, chef, and service of Pita the Great doesn’t stop at falafel. On the menu, all for 880 yen, are the following: crispy tofu pita, pumpkin pita, mushroom pita, cauliflower pita, eggplant, and hummus pita, as well as the classic. You will be asked, “Spicy or not spicy?” Go with spicy. It’s good for you. Do not fear a bit of jalapenos; all of us dining unanimously decided that the pita would not be as tasty or exciting without our choice of “spicy”.

It turns out that all of his sandwiches smell glorious when cooking or when hanging out briefly in his frier. All fresh, the broccoli is broken off into large florets while you hang around chatting with Uri; the tofu is broken-out from a new box and readied, the thick, garlicky falafel batter scooped into balls before running into their hot tub of bubbling oil.

Do it up, Uri! | Photo by Melissa Uchiyama

No animal products are utilized what-so-ever, and all ingredients are locally bought. Honestly, his falafels are even better than I last remember, and it is quite easy to romance even a jar of PB or frozen pizza rolls when you go without it.

His menu is large enough that it may take several minutes to finally decide on what you’re after, yet small enough that it is an easy and worthwhile goal to decide you will come back every week to try all nine pita-sandwiches.

There are some hitches, or glitches to be prepared for. You must come with the following:

1. An easy-going attitude, as the restaurant may be closed at the very same time you are ready to run in screaming, “I need falafel!”

2. Lots more napkins, hand-sani, and even forks if you wish to go back to the office or carry-on with your day as a clean person. These pita sandwiches are so good, albeit messy; it is difficult not to dive right in, or look like you did. Lucky me, my friends come prepared.

What to snag from the office, or pack from home, for a neater, more fastidious experience. | Photo by Melissa Uchiyama

3. An easy-going attitude to fully appreciate Uri’s banter and fabulous sense of irony. If you want hummus & he is out, he may tell you to call him in advance. He may also tell you that he doesn’t pick up the phone if he doesn’t know who it is..But Thursday? Okay, he’ll answer it.

Even after years in Japan, he delivers Israeli wit with charm. Uri is really a terrifically friendly guy. You’ll love chatting with him about his background in Tel Aviv, life in Japan, & all he does in the shop. You’ll also love counting his earrings while he pulls freshly formed felafel balls through the frier. Or stand peering in at his tongue ring while he dips tofu into his spiced batter & then drops it in with the felafel. He is quite a character.

4. White clothes, not your sleek city blacks. Stools may be dusted with a generous portion of flour from the magical pita-making regimen. Of course, if you like the extra attention drawn towards your tush, by all means, wear black. Why shouldn’t flour be flattering?

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Brush off the flour & take a seat. | Photo by Melissa Uchiyama

5. A plastic bag for toting back your wrappers & napkins, just in case a large flour bag has not been left out for trash disposal.

6. Appetite! You can always order extra toppings to sit atop your already hulking pita. Say you ordered the amazingly tender & flavorful eggplant pita–for 200 yen, you can add felafel to that! Or crispy fried onion, potato, or garlic! Or maybe you’ll wish to spice it up more by ordering extra smoked jalapeno.

This is like a Middle Eastern, vegan Sloppy Joe! Nothing will be leftover. You will be blissfully sated. | Photo by Melissa Uchiyama

An original falafel is perhaps the best way to kick-off your experience at Pita the Great.  After that, experiment with & taste all that this shop offers.

I’ve got to say, eggplant, broccoli, and of course, the big pita of felafel are my absolute favorites. Everything dipped into Uri’s insanely rich, yet light garlicky batter comes out sparkling with crispy deliciousness. Of course, the moment it is tucked in with harissa, tahini, & other sauces, the crisp loses its crunch. Everything kind of fuses into one big messy treat. Eat quickly before it “sogs” too much. Of course, ice cream soup is still fantastic. Again, you may want to being a utensil besides your mouth.

Go ahead & bring home some of Uri’s goods–stock-up on 5-packs of pita for 660 yen, felafel mix or ready-made beauties, hummus (if in stock), tahini, and even ruby-red harissa. All of these take-home party-treats are 660 yen, not bad for freshly-made international items bursting with healthy ingredients & the pride of this one-man operation.

Name:Pita the Great
Location:ATT Shinkan 2F 2-11-7 Akasaka Minato-Ku
Closest Station:5 min. walk from Tameikesanno Station (Ginza, Tokyo Metro Namboku Lines), or an 8-10 minute walk from Roppongi Ichome Station (Tokyo Metro Namboku Linee); from here, Izumi Gardens exit may be best
Web:www.pitathegreat.net (Japanese blog-style)
Business hours:Weekday lunch time. Sometimes weekends for lunch. Just go, or call first.
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