What came first, the Fill-a or the Pan? Who cares (it was the Pan, the Pita Pan, for those that do…), for both have helped expand the range of healthy (and, coincidentally, vegetarian) Middle Eastern food options available in Singapore. This is undoubtedly a good thing, but I can’t help but line them up in a battle of the Pita’s…
Such a comparison is inevitable, for they could not be more different. Pita Pan is a Vegas prize fighter – all glitz and glamour and mood lighting and sterile surfaces – whereas Fill-a-Pita is a street fighter that emphasises authentic flavours and a relaxed and homely eating environment. Hassan of Fill-a-Pita spends his days in the trenches, working tirelessly to get to know each and every customer that comes through his (proverbial) doors, whereas Reena Pushkarna – the fairy godmother of Pita Pan – is little more than a hallucination that smiles benevolently down on you from a giant picture behind the counter. Call me a prole, but I find PP’s ownership style a little indulgent; give me Hassan’s work ethic any day…
Competition aside, Pita Pan’s MBS outlet is squeaky clean and caters to the high rolling tourist (and, by extension, casino) crowds. It’s inefficient, bland and ridiculously overpriced; the kind of eatery you could find in any major city around the world. The ordering and food collection system is mind-bogglingly confusing (it’s a bit like Subway, but nobody actually tells you that…), although it should be said that the servers were patient and pleasant. When I visited it was very crowded and nearly impossible to get a seat. We ended up perched at the bar, next to a large freezer containing stacks and stacks of pita (which the menu claims is “freshly baked”). Ahem.
HUMMUS WITH MUSHROOMS (SGD 11.90 + 10% service + 7% GST = SGD 13.92!)
The hummus was served with one pita, which was thick and fluffy and robust. The hummus was very creamy (a lot of tahini must have gone into it) and had quite a simple taste; the (garlic-infused) mushrooms were simply plonked on top. Personally I found the hummus to be too smooth – I prefer more texture, and I think it would have worked much better with the mushrooms chopped up and mixed in. Whilst this dish was better than my picture suggests, the flavours and textures could easily have been improved. The icing on the cake was that whilst the portion was medium-sized, the price was super-sized.
Before you gasp (or faint) at the price, it should be noted that the full pocket meal contains five falafels, a range of toppings (of your choice), chips and a soft drink. OK, now you can gasp/faint. Overall, this thing is ridiculous. It’s a monster of a pita – so big and messy that you have to eat it with a fork, and so expensive you need a line of credit to pay for it. Don’t get me wrong, the flavours of the toppings and falafels were delicious (the falafels were made with fava beans, and were a delightful green colour; the toppings ranged from candied carrots to marinated aubergines, and included everything in between), but because they were all mixed together it was very difficult to appreciate each one individually. This thing would have been much better just served on a plate. Whatever the opposite of synergy is (antinergy, perhaps?), this was it.
A mind-boggling experience. Delicious flavours, crazy pricing and a completely counter-intuitive service concept; Pita Pan is an example of Middle Eastern food on steroids. Come to think of it, even the name doesn’t really make sense (and don’t get the started on the music…). Given the choice, I would take the down-to-earth goodness of Fill-a-Pita any day.