The winner of last month’s Restaurant Week contest suggested that, instead of sending him a copy of Best Food Writing 2009I could hand it to him during lunch. Did someone say lunch?!

So last week, Y&H make the trek up to Rockville Town Square, where Daniel Korn introduced me to a new kosher Middle Eastern operation known, rather rustically, as the Pita Hut. It’s a mostly family-run shop specializing in shawarma, falafel, kebabs, and, ahem, fried chicken. It’s like Max’s Kosher Cafe without the deli and the attitude.

My first bite of Pita Hut’s falafel made me sit up and pay attention. Its exterior, shaped like a little muffin (see picture below) rather than the more traditional ball, was almost pebbly in texture and had a crunch that could awake sleeping giants. My first taste revealed the presence of garlic. The second unearthed a salt deposit. The third a cache of herbs. This has to be the most flavor-forward falafel anywhere. It has all the subtly of a late-night infomercial.

The tiny muffins likely won’t supplant the heavenly little rounds at Max’s as my go-to falafel, mostly because the former’s sodium level is through the roof. But between its assertive flavors and wicked crunch, Pita Hut’s falafel instantly becomes a major player.

Which is more than I can say for the place’s shawarma, which goes against tradition and serves up a health-conscious mixture of chicken and turkey. The meat combo doesn’t nearly have enough fat to provide the necessary flavor to penetrate the toppings and salads stuffed into the pita. Instead, it makes for a rather bland bite (though I do like how the cooks at Pita Hut stuff everything into the side of the pita, which seems to maintain the stability of the sandwich better.)

I downed my lunch with a bottle Israeli non-alcoholic beer, which our personable waitress recommended over root beer (which is the only soft drink I actually like). She thinks American root beers taste like Ben Gay, which was funny and honest enough to make me want to try her barley malt soft drink. She came back around a few minutes later and asked what I thought.

“It tastes like liquid Marmite,” I quipped. I should have said sweet liquid Marmite.