Good restaurants at football stadiums: the next big thing in food circles? Leading the charge is Copenhagen’s Geranium, a gushed-about fine diner at Denmark’s National Football Stadium. (The restaurant has three Michelin stars and is currently ranked second on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants countdown). Over in Melbourne, Marvel Stadium is home to an outpost of Lee Ho Fook, chef Victor Liong’s energetic modern Chinese diner. And in Perth we have Falafel Omisi, a casual cafe that opened at Joe Rosen Oval in February.
Admittedly, Joe Rosen Oval – a suburban soccer pitch in Yokine and home to the WA arm of international Jewish sports club, Maccabi – isn’t quite in the same league as Marvel Stadium or the Danish national team’s HQ. I’ll also admit that, until I stumbled on it via Google, the name Falafel Omisi was a new one to me, even though the restaurant’s story dates to 1961 when Rachel Omisi opened the family’s first falafel shop in Tel Mond, Israel. But despite an unusual location and nothing in the way of market visibility, this humble kiosk rates as one of 2022’s most notable debutants.
“I believe if you have good food, people will come,” says Maor Mantin , the chef and one of the partners behind the Perth outpost of Falafel Omisi. “If your food is yummy, people will come. If you open in the desert, they’ll come to the desert to eat.”
People will also come when the cook has a personality as sunny as Mantin’s. Over a handful of visits, I watch him hold conversations – in English and Hebrew – with everyone from dog walkers and students from nearby Carmel College to the oval’s groundskeeper. He speaks quickly and enthusiastically and with a strong French accent, a nod to his family’s Gallic, Italian and Jewish roots. After a life spent in the business world, Mantin shifted his focus from boardrooms to the kitchen and teamed up with Falafel Omisi owner Yaakov Omisi in 2017. Last year, Mantin and Omisi hatched plans to cross the Nullarbor and bring Omisi’s brand of Middle Eastern out west after a coin toss – etz oh pali, the Hebrew version of heads or tails – went our way.
Falafel Omisi’s namesake is the number one reason to punch it to Yokine. Made according to Omisi’s grandmother’s recipes, these 20-cent-sized falafels are crunchy, unctuous and crazy delicious. In a town where falafels are so often an afterthought at kebab and sandwich shops everywhere, these fried-to-order golden orbs are a pointed reminder of how delicious plant-based eating can be. They’re available tucked into a pita pocket; as part of a falafel plate; or as a crunchy accent on plates of hummus. All options come with hummus, tahini (made in-house) and pita bread (baked off-site at a friend’s bakery according to Mantin’s recipe).
The second reason to make tracks to Falafel Omisi post-haste is the sabich, a Jewish-Iraqi sandwich starring sauteed eggplant, a hard-boiled egg and salad crammed into a pita pocket. It’s a sandwich that’s gaining traction elsewhere – I call to mind a glorious version at Sydney’s Shwarmama – but, until now, I’ve yet to spy one at a bricks and mortar venue in these parts since the closure of The Hummus Club. Other sandwiches on the menu include a chicken shawarma as well as a chicken schnitzel pocket. The shakshuka (again with falafel accoutrements) is also something I’m looking forward to taking for a spin.
Towards the end of your order, Mantin will ask “do you like spicy?” Answer correctly and your prize will be our man anointing your sandwich with a dab of zhoug: a Yemeni hot sauce made with chilli and coriander that lifts everything it touches.
Some advice for first-timers: the space is best described as clean and comfortable rather than anywhere you’d write home about. A giant decal of a summery Tel Aviv scene (and a drinks fridge) adorns one of the walls. A handful of tables are inside while the small undercover area outdoors is scattered with chairs, high tables and a patch of fake lawn. It’s worth noting that there’s little in the way of signage so you’ll just have to trust that Google Maps is taking you to the right place (if you’re in a car park next to a soccer pitch, you’re in the right place). Your destination has a big blue mural painted on its outside and is next to a playground. True, Falafel Omisi isn’t the most straightforward of places to get to but, as Mantin said, tasty eating is worth travelling for.