Customers sometimes tell Ilan Goldenblatt about the best falafels they’ve ever eaten… elsewhere. But once they’ve sunk their teeth into the tender falafel pitas he painstakingly makes from scratch at little The Thirsty Camel Cafe, in Nanaimo, B.C., they invariably revise their opinions.
It starts with the oil. Most falafel-frying joints change their cooking oil every now and then, perhaps filtering it more frequently. But Ilan begins each day with new oil. He wants it this fresh because his chickpea-based balls are only formed (with a custom, Israeli-made device) when ordered. Into the virgin oil they are briefly plunged, emerging slightly green, from the parsley and cilantro, and with just enough surface crunch to mask the silky tenderness inside. No dry, stale falafel balls these. No siree.
The six warm falafel balls are then stuffed into a thick pita fold, along with cool cucumber, house-made tahini and a sauce that’s got a camel’s kick if you think medium heat is just that. Ilan and his staff have been pouring love into their falafels and other Middle Eastern fare for 10 years. You can taste it with every mouthful.
The Thirsty Camel Cafe
14 Victoria Crescent, Nanaimo, B.C.
Monday to Wednesday 11 am-3 pm, Thursday-Friday 11 am-7 pm, Saturday noon-4 pm. Closed Sunday
If you have a hankering for sourdough bread, best make a beeline for Bodhi’s Artisan Bakery, on a leafy Nanaimo street. They make a good half-dozen varieties of sourdough, including a garlic asiago and an olive. They also produce fine cheese scones, pumpkin muffins and dripping cinnamon buns, if you’d like a sumptuous treat to go with an excellent espresso, crafted from Cowichan Valley Peaks Coffee beans. It’s all best enjoyed on a shady patio, where a half hour slips by as smoothly as the coffee goes down.
Bodhi’s Artisan Bakery
5299 Rutherford Road, Nanaimo, B.C.
Tuesday to Friday 8 am-4:30 pm, Saturday 8 am-6:30 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday