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damascus bakery and baklava

z
zorgclyde Dec 11, 2006 06:15 PM

I finally went to Sahadi's last month for the first time and I really think they should introduce a member's club. I started thinking about next visit even before I reached the cashier. I really love their bulk selection, and can't think of going back to buy the fossilized dried beans at foodtown now.

Anyways, I passed by damascus bakery, and went to try their baklava and some other sweets - I think it was finger something, birdnest, etc.
I was really disappointed. The baklava didn't taste fresh at all. I could barely taste the walnut in it, and while the pastry was admittedly refined and well made, it has too many layers, the syrup inside was very thick and gooey, almost sickening. I bought 3 or 4 items, and they were all like that.
Did I buy the wrong item? It seems unlikely since that was their specialty stuff. Do they make it differently from others?
I remember the baklava I liked was lighter on pastry and filled with fresh nuts inside, and the syrup played a complementary but not dominant role. Can I find such in NYC?

  1. s
    seb Jan 14, 2007 02:12 AM

    I was in Damascus today (knaffe, handmade pita, babaganoush, string cheese) & I noticed 2 different types of cheese in jars (maybe in brine?). Could someone enlighten me? TIA

    1. g
      Ghazi Jan 14, 2007 12:16 AM

      Hi TIA. Yes, the bakery ́s kibbe is good, but I like Sahadi ́s better. Halkoum is a confection based on glucose and filled with pistacchios; some people confuse it with Turkish Delight, which is a candy with lots of perfume, color and no pistacchios. Halkoum is out of its league. Sambousas are like turnovers; at the Damascus Bakery they have them filled with cheese, spinach, chicken and beef; also in regular dough and in filla dough. They ́re all delicious.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ghazi
        efdee Jan 14, 2007 12:42 PM

        Thanks for the info. If Sambousas are the triangular filled pastries in the front case, I have only had the spinach/feta and they are delicious, and I'm looking forward to trying the other fillings. I think that I've tasted the Halkoum and like it way better than Turkish Delight. Damascus doesn't always have it, but their mushroom salad is very good. Looking forward to the answer to seb's question below too.

      2. g
        Ghazi Jan 12, 2007 10:39 PM

        For me, going to Sahadi's and Damascus Bakery is pilgrimage. Good food from Sahadi includes Medjoul dates, olives, coffees, spices, etc. Their kibbe and their babaganouj are excellent, very similar to what my mother and grandmother made. From Damascus, don't miss their bread and their halkoum, but their most delicious are the spinach sambousa. Across the street, on the corner of Atlantic and Clinton, visit the Tripoli Restaurant and don't miss their bamia with lamb in a pomegranate sauce.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Ghazi
          efdee Jan 13, 2007 01:14 PM

          Ghazi, I love shopping at Sahadi's and Damascus too. Have you tried the kibbe from Damascus? They're very similar to Sahadi's but I prefer them although I can't say exactly why. What are halkoum and spinach sambousa? Maybe I've had them without knowing what they're called? TIA

        2. m
          maloofe Dec 31, 2006 03:25 PM

          The Oriental Pastry and Grocery Company at 170 Atlantic Avenue, makes the best sweets. The also have a wonderful friendly attitude and wait on each customer personally, having customers’ who are buying sample things when there are questions. They have a good selection and since they bake in the back of the store, it is like homemade, everything is always fresh. There is a nice article on them at:
          http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/str...

          Laza Sweets on 25-78 Steinway St. in Queens has a big array of beautiful miniatures, but compared to Oriental they skimp on butter and fillings. There sweets are relatively dry and more commercial.

          Damascus is a good bakery for bread, though Oriental gets the ultra-thin whole wheat Syrian bread that I like for roll-ups as well as dips and cheese. I have not compared their spinach and meat turnovers recently.

          The ultimate bakery has been gone for several years; Near East bakery on Atlantic Avenue, in the basement they had huge old clay ovens and the sweats and breads were typically better than most Syrian grandmothers would make.

          Since there are “little Arabia’s” in several areas, it is fun to taste and try things when you are in the neighborhood.

          1. c
            cgchow Dec 15, 2006 06:15 PM

            Perhaps you should look in Bay Ridge -- isn't there a sizable Middle Eastern population there, w/ a number of good restaurants and shops? I've always found everything I need on Atlantic, so I can't recommend anywhere in Bay Ridge, but I'm sure that other Chowhounders can. Good luck!

            1 Reply
            1. re: cgchow
              jen kalb Dec 15, 2006 08:30 PM

              If you are looking in Bay Ridge there are several Arabic and at least one Greek bakery on the 5th Ave Strip - 60s and 70s. If you are down this time of year definitely hit Leskes for their Christmas treats and especially their stollen.

            2. z
              zorgclyde Dec 15, 2006 03:07 AM

              thanks for everyone's reply. I will try their pita and dips, and maybe the other savory items too.
              The hunt for good baklava continues...

              1. Spoony Bard Dec 13, 2006 08:16 PM

                In addition to the maamoul (date especially), pita, dips and savories, Damascus makes a mean turkish delight, neon-orange pumpkin as well as the more common pistachio.

                1. f
                  Fleur Dec 12, 2006 06:03 AM

                  Does DAMASCUS BAKERY make anything traditional for Christmas? What are the traditional Syrian Christmas sweets and dishes?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Fleur
                    b
                    bebe Dec 13, 2006 04:06 PM

                    For Christmas maamoul is the festive deseert, which is equivelant to american fruit cake at christmas time. It is a shortbresd type cookie stuffed with dates or nuts.

                  2. b
                    bebe Dec 12, 2006 01:55 AM

                    I am Arab and have been eating baklava all my life. I agree that Damascus is good for bread, but their baklava is only OK. It is doughy and not very good. I prefer Laziza when it comes to Baklava, although at thanksgiving we bought a prepared platter from them for our relatives that was not very fresh. I tasted two pieces, one was very fresh the other appeared stale. If I went again, I would insist on them preparing a platter in front of me and insist on the newest supply. My husband went in for it and he is not a great shopper. Anyhow. Laziza has the best around in my opinion, although I have definately tasted better.

                    bebe

                    1. f
                      Fleur Dec 12, 2006 12:11 AM

                      With Baklava, and all pasties made with Phyllo, the weather has a lot to do with how they turn out. Also how freshly made they are. I have been disappointed at times with NEAR EAST, ORIENTAL BAKERY, where the people are not particularly nice compared with the great folks at DAMASCUS.

                      DAMASCUS makes the best Pita bread. Try the handmade. It is different from the one they make for commercial use. Their Spinach and Meat Pies are excellent, and freeze beautifully, so buy a dozen or more.

                      SAHADI has been in business for almost one hundred years and they are among the most sophisticated, business savvy, family businesses around. They couldn't possible lower their prices for "club members". They are already lower than wholesale on many items.

                      1. j
                        jdf Dec 11, 2006 10:13 PM

                        I think their baklava is great, and less syrupy than many other places, but if its not your taste there is always Laziza on Steinway, in Queens (though obviously not the neighborhood the OP was talking about).

                        1. b
                          brooklynmasala Dec 11, 2006 08:07 PM

                          I love their baklava and knaffe (sp) with pistachios rather than walnuts.

                          1. chompchomp Dec 11, 2006 07:45 PM

                            Hmm...I went to Damascus for baklava just before Thanksgiving and found it absolutely delicious, some of the best stuff I've had.

                            1. e
                              E.Kantro Dec 11, 2006 07:23 PM

                              Trying to understand what benefit you might derive if Sahadi had a member's club. Perhaps you could explain.

                              1. EJC Dec 11, 2006 06:53 PM

                                Damascus also makes delicious mamoul, better than my Tata's!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: EJC
                                  efdee Dec 11, 2006 08:39 PM

                                  Mamoul? What's mamoul, s'il vous plait?

                                  1. re: efdee
                                    EJC Dec 11, 2006 08:43 PM

                                    delicious shortbread-like cookies filled with walnut, pistachio, or dates.

                                2. n
                                  Nehna Dec 11, 2006 06:46 PM

                                  That's odd, I've always loved the baklava at Damascus. I've purchased it many times and even brought a collection of it to an event once to rave reviews. Granted I dont consider myself by any means a baklava expert. But always tasted great to me....and I consider it less sweet than most of the other baklavas I've tried.

                                  That said, the main reasons I go to Damascus are their pita (wonderful stuff...much better than what Sahadi's sells), their pastries (meat pies, spinach pies, etc), their thick hummus, and some of their other prepared dips like the walnut/red pepper one, and the hot and spicy pepper one (I forget the names of those two, one is sweet and the other is spicy, both red).

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: Nehna
                                    p
                                    Produce Addict Dec 11, 2006 09:12 PM

                                    This sounds delicious. Any idea if they are open on Sundays? How about Oriental Pastry?

                                    1. re: Produce Addict
                                      n
                                      Nehna Dec 11, 2006 09:14 PM

                                      You know, I'm not sure about sundays. I tend to go on saturdays, when I go to Sahadi's...sort of our ritual every other saturday it seems. And I've meant to check on whether they're open sundays.

                                      Anybody know?

                                      1. re: Produce Addict
                                        charlie_b Dec 11, 2006 09:21 PM

                                        yes, Damascus Bakery is open 7 days per week. not sure about Oriental Pastry, but i *think* they are open on Sundays.

                                        Damascus makes wonderful dips and spreads. i can't live without the Garlic Sauce (garlic, potato, lemon, oil). the walnut/red pepper/pomegranite sauce that Nehna refers to is M'hamara (had some for lunch today).

                                        their baklava is hit or miss for me. i've yet to find a consistently good source for baklava in NYC. although, the most consistently good so far has been Divine Taste on 7th Avenue in Park Slope, esp. the "nut fingers". i have a particular weakness for Lebanese cashew baklava shaped like half-moons, but none has compared yet to some i got in Portland ME a few years ago.

                                        i also wasn't super-impressed with the baklava from Oriental Pastry across the street, except they make a decent version of a baklava-like treat that's filled with a custardy-cream, and i've had before at Ibby's Falafel in Jersey City, where the owners are Syrian.

                                        another thing i like about Damascus is that many of their phyllo and dough savory "pies" are available with whole wheat, which makes me feel like it's better for me.

                                        EDIT: and i agree that Damascus's Mamoul is awesome. i fluctuate between preferring the pistachio or the walnut. i think it depends on my mood.

                                        alekz

                                        1. re: charlie_b
                                          jen kalb Dec 11, 2006 10:50 PM

                                          I got the Damascus muhamara once and it was too sweet for me, insipid compared with the stuff at waterfalls.
                                          I wish I had a relationship with the folks at the counter sufficient to assure that I am getting a cut from the freshest baklava, rather than the stuff that has been sitting around longest.Sometimes maybe the turnover isnot as fast as Id like.
                                          the mamoul is absolutely great, but do they actually make it themselves?? the last time I was in there I thought I saw them taking some of the mamoul (maybe just the little ones, which are NOT so good- out of a box. Damascus has a galactoboureki type thing - its usually up on the front, top case along with the savory stuff

                                          1. re: charlie_b
                                            bobjbkln Dec 12, 2006 05:10 PM

                                            The Damascus STORE on Atlantic Avenue is open on Sundays, but their actual BAKERY (in Williamsburg?) is not, so all of the items you buy on Sunday are at least a day old.

                                            1. re: charlie_b
                                              efdee Dec 15, 2006 01:00 PM

                                              I've seen those interesting dips at Damascus but don't know what
                                              to put them on. Do you just eat them with pita or raw veg or are
                                              there other ways? TIA

                                              1. re: efdee
                                                n
                                                Nehna Dec 15, 2006 01:09 PM

                                                I eat them with pita mainly. They're also nice (esp the spicy one) with some of the pastries (meat pies, etc).

                                                1. re: efdee
                                                  charlie_b Jan 13, 2007 04:21 AM

                                                  i put the garlic paste on just about everything ... i was so excited to find it, as i haven't stumbled across it for a decade or so (not hat i was constantly hunting for it) but i love it.

                                            2. re: Nehna
                                              rose water Dec 11, 2006 09:37 PM

                                              Second the rec for their incredible pita, which I agree is much better than what Sahadi's sells. The sesame seed pita and the triangle shaped ones are my favorite. Great chewiness.

                                              1. re: Nehna
                                                b
                                                brooklynmasala Dec 11, 2006 09:41 PM

                                                The M'hamara (pomegranite and walnut dip) is much better at Kalustyans, IMHO

                                              2. Peter Cuce Dec 11, 2006 06:44 PM

                                                As far as I know, Damascus is famous for their pita bread, and that's the only thing I buy there. I think the pastries at Oriental Pastry across the street are quite good.

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