Have you ever stepped into something that transports you into wonderland just due to its scent?
The only things missing from Al Samadi Sweets were angelic, doe eyed angels with wings, picking up the golden hues that reflected off of a plethora of baklava treats and transforming them into pixie dust. Having been gifted Al Samadi Baklava time and time again from Frying Pan, of a food tour talked about here, and even scouted a close competitor in the unlikely city of Rotterdam, the arrival to the actual premise was nothing short of utopia. It was a European style cafe of sorts, with art-deco style chairs and wooden tables, but really who had the time to survey ambiance when the tantalizing buckets of all sorts of nutty assortments was the spectacle to behold? I was truly an Alice in Wonderland, a Peter Pan style kid in a world of my own.
Al Samadi Sweets was actually established in Lebanon in 1872, explaining some of the Lebanese delights with nuttiness and freshness of Arab sweets, glistening like gold. Now in Dubai and other Arab cities as well as Ukraine and UK, it offered French and European desserts too, but naturally I opted for the local indulgences.
The baklava was classically Turkish: phyllo dough crunched up and stuffed with walnuts and sugar with a hint of honey maple, while an angel’s nest rendition showcased how phyllo could be aped into noodle-like strands that were held together with sugar syrup, with their cavity drenched in green and purple pistachios. I learned that its name was rather reminiscent of a love story or a chirping bird: Bulbul Yuvasi. And then there were the massive logs, solid and sturdy, of baklava shaped like a cylinder, ready for slicing, and a more delightfully delicious option that the Western mule log, what with a pistachio or cashew stuffing!
I tried a Lebanese cookie called Karabij, looking rather like a cutlet and sour cream snack. It was instead a cookie stuffed with pistachios, with the texture of halwa, served with a bitter natef cream, made from a ground root and doused with pistachio shavings. The combination was intriguing, for the slickness of the cookie contrasted comically with the bitterness of the meringue like cream, woven together with pistachio flakes that seemed to have lost their crunch, falling asleep on the natef’s pillowy texture. There were many other variations with a sweet kheer-meets-pistachio dish glistening like art, and a date chutney filled pastry that literally melted in my mouth.
Saturated in flavor and overwhelmed with a love of life, I made it through an Arabian Night to remember, under a crescent moon, and blessed to be in a wonderland of my own.