First Bite: Jerusalem Pita

A relatively small neighborhood packed with restaurants and foodies alike, Brookline’s Coolidge Corner offers a fertile ground for rivalries (the Anna’s–Boca Grande burrito war of the early aughts, for instance, continues to simmer). Has another gauntlet been thrown down with the arrival of Jerusalem Pita, as a challenger to the reigning local purveyor of Israeli-style kosher falafel, Rami’s?

Since debuting late last year, this charming Pleasant Street storefront has won its own following—the place was nearly full on our recent weeknight visit—but our experience suggests it’s not quite ready to make a play for Rami’s diehards. Start with supply: The chicken shawarma had run out (a big no-no) and the genial guy at the counter had to confirm with the kitchen before taking our Jerusalem eggplant and lamb kebab orders. Then there’s the food. In the standard falafel-with-everything pita, the pita itself was a delicious rendering of the thick, spongy version popular in Israel, but an inexpert layering of ingredients meant the sandwich started dry and ended soggy. (Plus, the hot sauce in all our sandwiches tended to pool at the bottom, which made for a startling final bite.) The grilled meats could also use a bit more attention: The lamb kebab, which we ordered in a wrap called a laffa, was a bit tough, and the chicken kebab was underseasoned.

Still, there’s reason to think that Jerusalem Pita could become a force to be reckoned with. The menu is broad, with appetizers such as kubeh (beef, pine nuts, and spices rolled in fried bulgar wheat) and sambusek (a savory stuffed pastry) tucked in among the tabouleh and baba ganoush, and the well-stocked Israeli salad bar is a nice touch. The restaurant itself is a few notches above takeout joint, with lovely little glass chandeliers, a tiny bar, and a colorful mural brightening the interior. And it seems the owners can make the most of constructive criticism: After receiving a drubbing on comment boards for slow and disorganized service when they opened, the staff now is among the most attentive and friendly we’ve come across in recent months. — Jennifer Johnson

10 Pleasant St., Brookline, 617-739-2400, jerusalempita.com.