Naan Nut - Sangak Bread to make you cry
While running some errands about a week ago, I noticed that a place called "Naan Hut" had opened on Santa Monica Blvd. near Colby (nearby landmarks include Emil's Swiss Pastry and the Royal Theater).
I had to run in to see what was up. What was up was a giant oven producing giant sheets of bread (about 2' x 4'). There was also a refrigerated display case next to the counter with scant offerings in the form of Persian/Mediterranean side dishes. There were a few customers lingering and I made a note to self: TRY THIS BREAD AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Yesterday was the day. I was making a fish curry and this would be perfect for mopping up the sauce.
Due to the overwhelming sentiment on Yelp that service was painfully slow, I called ahead and ordered two sheets of sangak (they make a few types of Persian bread in addition to sangak).
A couple of hours later I pulled up and went in there, hoping to get my bread before my car was towed (no parking on S.M. between 4-6). I took a number and took stock of the place. Nothing really seemed to happen, so I mentioned that I had called ahead. He sort of remembered but I could tell it wasn't going to be quick so I moved my car. When I returned, a small crowd was gathering. There were several women giving the older gentleman behind the counter advice in Farsi and I was starting to get worried.
However, all of a sudden I was handed my bread for which I paid $3 per sheet. If I hadn't called ahead I might have had to abandon ship because there were some people in there who looked like they had been there for a LONG time.
Let me tell you - there's nothing like walking down the street with a couple of sheets of this warm bread in your arms. It smelled incredible. As soon as I got into the car I tore off a piece: DAMN is this stuff fanTAStic.
Chewy without being doughy, a slight sesame taste and if you set your oven at about 175 you can keep it warm for a while without drying it out too much.
We served it with cheese before dinner. It's incredible with goat cheese. It was incredible with the curry. We couldn't stop eating it. Overwhelmed by two sheets, I gave one to a neighbor. A couple of hours later they wanted to know "Where the hell did you get this, it's incredible!"
In short, Naan Hut needs to stay open, and we need to somehow get the message to this guy that he needs help in the service department. I say, "this guy" because it seems like the older gentleman behind the counter is the proprieter. He is distracted and not up to speed (to say the least) and I think that it goes beyond being newly opened.
Despite the indignant claims of many Yelpers, the slow service has NOTHING to do with being a non-Persian. I was the only non-Iranian in the joint (trust me - no one is going to mistake me for Persian) and I got the fastest service, almost certainly because I had called ahead. I witnessed many being treated with the same polite confusion that I experienced.
Naan Hut should be a local treasure but I fear that it will be a just-another-restaurant closure if the service doesn't change. The bread is so good as to make you cry, but the service is so bad as to produce a different sort of tears.
All they're doing is making bread - this is not a complicated operation. If he got that going, then maybe the side dish display case could become more functional (the few things that were in there looked nice).
You owe it to yourself to try this bread, but plan ahead and don't be in a hurry. And if you're feeling like giving Naan Hut a little push, print out this review and hand it to him when you finally get your bread.
11551 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Open daily, 8-8
Emil's Swiss Pastry
11551 Santa Monica Blvd 90025, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Some of you may recall Linda Burum's "The Find" article in the LA Times on Asal Bakery in Woodland Hills, which bakes Persian breads, particularly sangak:
Naan Hut bakes the same bread. I went in this morning before 8PM, and other than the bake staff, owner and his friend or relative, I was the only customer, and they were in the process of freshly baking the sangak. The bread cooling on racks still hot from the oven.
This traditional Persian bread is baked in a behemoth open oven with a river pebbled-lined floor on which the thin sheets of bread dough are laid on and directly baked. The end product is visually ethereal for bread lovers. While being almost two-dimensional in shape, it emotes a stunning, complex edible landscape, whetting one's appetite in the anticipation of taking in the textures, aroma and flavors of a masterfully crafted bread. The sesame-laden bread is massive - about three feet in length by about a foot wide. Browned, crisp and bubbled on top from the intense heat, the bread itself has a nice chew to it. Feeling the bottom as you tear away at the bread, one feels a beautiful supple stippled texture created from the river pebbles that is appreciated even more when viewing it.
This is the quintessential utilitarian bread for eating with just about anything, particularly savory food. Obviously Persian dishes are a natural for this type of bread (I'm thinking about the ashe from Attari) but it would be a shame to limit this bread to one cuisine. As the OP describes about pairing this with his fish curry to mop up the sauce, it's perfect for tear off-and-eat or used as an edible utensil. Cheeses, charcuterie, meats, stews, soups, dips, and spreads would work great with this bread, or just nibbling away at it on its own. The sangak was so large that part of it lay across my lap from the passenger seat - I guiltily tore away at one of the breads still warm from the oven as I drove home...
20008 Ventura Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 91364
11551 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
What a beautiful post! :)
We went a couple of weeks ago and the older man was there with two latino helpers... so like anywhere else in L.A., it helps to speak Spanish...:)
I was lucky...I got there when there was a trickle of customers and I was able to get a sangak hot out of the oven almost as soon as I walked in!!
I paid for it, and folded it up... the older gentleman quickly scolded me and quickly unfolded it. I was like... okay... can you put in a bag? He was like NO! If you bag it while it's hot it'll ruin it!
OKay... so I asked him the best way to take it to my car... he said, you have a back seat don't you?
OKAY... so I grabbed the bread, drapped over my arms and walked with it carefully down the block on Santa Monica... I was quite the sight... a delicious sight though because as I passed Churro Calientes the patrons who were just a second ago in hot chocolate and churro bliss were like... WHAT'S THAT!?!?!
I put it on back seat and drove it home. Had it with Lindy and Grundy's Smoked Chicken Legs (OMG!) and a side of Samosa House's Spicy Cauliflower (OMGanesha). It was the perfect accompaniment because unlike most naans, the sangak has a wonderful flavor on its own so it was able to play with the smoke and the spice.
Like others have mentioned, this was HUGE... at the end of our meal, after it was completely cooled down, we cut it into more manageable pieces with a pizza cutter and ate the next day warmed up on the pizza stone.
The only other thing I must note is that Humus is not a traditional Persian food. So we were not impressed by it. Flavorless and watery.... so resist the temptation of picking it up there...
11510 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA
Thanks, Dommy! - your kind words are always a siren's calling...
I was thinking about putting it in the back seat but was afraid it might slide off if I had to suddenly brake - how does one seatbelt a sangak? I'm taking my wife's wagon next time. The owner precluded me from folding his edible art when I asked him if I could do so to fit in my car. Thus, on the passenger seat and over my lap.
The flavor is wonderful. Just a bit bready sweet, accents of sesame seeds, nicely browned and bubbled with a bit of char, and a great texture between the slight crispness on top and the outer edges and the chew. I asked how many were appropriate for six eaters. If you've seen, "Shrek," you might recall the scene where Lord Farquaad is trying to pick his future bride and where his henchmen are calling out numbers. "Two - three - two - get three..." Not that any of the folks were henchman-like, but everyone was eager to make a call. "Two people can eat one easily..." They're very good - you will really like them... and this bread is very healthy too!" I picked two, and two were generous for six average eaters.
I think three dollars per is a steal in this neck of the woods. I can't help but throw the "replication" factor into the equation. If replicating something I really enjoy is out of the question, then this gives the said-item a big boost in the value quotient. And superbly prepared baked goods always rank high with me personally. I picked up the "salad olivie," basically a mild olive-laden rich potato salad a try and it was very good. I also got the sholeh zard (persian saffron rice pudding) and it was full-flavored with saffron, rose water and cinnamon, but a little thinner in consistency than am used to. They didn't have any hummus - only prepacked feta in the case. Like you mention - hummus is not part of Persian cuisine, but even a passable hummus would be wonderful with this bread. The only thing I saw resembling a menu were a couple of posters offering chicken kabobs, which are available later in the day.
Smoked chicken legs at Lindy and Grundy? I haven't been yet but I can only imagine.
LOL! My car is not huge so there wasn't much of a place for the bread to go... But I did make sure to not make any sudden stops or turns...
Anyway, you must go to Lindy and Grundy's.... We've been really impressed by the items we've gotten so far from them. The Smoked chicken legs, although a bit pricy were STUNNING. They were juicy beyong belief with a deep penetrating smoke. Swooooooonnnnnn....
There's price war in the valley on Sangak; Asal has cut their price to two dollars a sheet to compete with Woodland Hills Market just down the block which also bakes the bread all day long. Both Asal and WHM give you butcher paper to wrap the bread in. Since there's no rice on the menu at Asal, all the kabobs are served on Sangak. The jus and sangak are definitely a heavenly match. The chicken kabob at Asal is excellent and they make a very decent ash-e reshteh. One more thing; Sangak's always whole wheat.
Woodland Hills Market
19964 Ventura Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 91364
When Linda first wrote up Asal, I was going crazy - was trying like mad to get out their for I don't know how many consecutive weekends but something always got in the way. For the SFV to have price wars on sangak is like Angelenos being jaded by the plentiful good weather and abundance of celebs. You certainly are fortunate to be in that situation! A Persian acquaintance who lives out in Woodland Hills likes Woodland Hills Market but gave no specifics as to why. Maybe it's because Asal is relatively new?
The WMH market is great. Having to be in that neck of the woods every ten days or so - am a westsider too - I make a point of stopping by. Besides the fresh bakery, they have many ready-made dishes in their freezer section, some like ashe-e anar, not easily found at local restaurants. Also, what Asal offers, for breakfast only, is kaleh-pacheh which I haven't tried yet; it's Persian style menudo, though I don't know if it has the same hangover cure rep.