- Matthew Schniper
Baklava Cafe, 3315 W. Carefree Circle, 400-5992, facebook.com/baklavacafe
Call Baklava Cafe a destination place, because you aren’t likely to find it otherwise, tucked away off North Academy Boulevard in the spot that used to house People’s Choice Café and Mountain Grounds Coffee House. Owner Shifaa Alshehab, from Jordan, took over about two years ago, and she still houses a high-end espresso machine for lattes and the like, though she’s added Turkish coffee service.
I’m drawn to her chai-like Karak tea though, an infused black tea served with steamed milk. And from some daily specials, I opt for a plate of lamb and saffron rice (the rice fortified with lamb stock). She seasons the meat with onions, turmeric, cardamom and cinnamon for floral essence, plus a key ingredient: dried limes (that look like a hard tree nut of some sort) from Oman. It’s an absolutely lovely dish, wherein the spices aren’t so strong they mask the protein’s gaminess. On the side, I order a spinach yamak, a stuffed, fluffy, wheat-dough pastry, and Alshehab also presents me with a version that’s more like a Turkish flatbread called gözleme. Somewhere between naan and a crêpe texture-wise, with crunchy edges from a pan fry, I prefer it. Charmed already, I must try some of the wide array of sweets on display, and choose the Turkish pudding, basically a semolina porridge with a thin cream top, doused in rosewater and garnished with crushed pistachios. Wow! While I’m savoring every bite, Alshehab drops off a sample corner of a white cake also exuding rose essence (she says she buys a special kind from Lebanon) — “magical” is the word that comes to mind to describe the smell and flavor.
Baklava Cafe’s so much more than the previous occupants of these humble digs.