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Montreal Baklava Throwdown: Afroditi Bakery vs. Patisserie Efes

Posted by Amie / March 29, 2010

Afroditi Bakery (756 Rue Saint-Roch) | Patisserie Efes (689 St-Roch)
●●●●●●●●○○ | ●●●●●●●○○○
8 out of 10 | 7 out of 10

Montreal is full of dry baklava. For a province that puts maple syrup in everything, I figured that I wouldn't be the only person who wanted their dessert swimming in golden nectar.

For me, that's always meant that the perfect sweet was Greek baklava, and after bothering friends about the best baklava options in the city for months, I tried just about every option I could get my hands on. Navarino (5563 Parc at St-Viateur), Arahova (multiple locations), Milos (the very upscale Greek restaurant where I had to get up the nerve just to walk in and ask for dessert). Then I branched into Moroccan and Middle Eastern baklava respectively at Le Ryad (Jean-Talon Market) and Akhavan (6170 Sherbrooke West). I was so dissatisfied. I couldn't taste intense honey and butter. It got to the point where I made my own, which turned out to be such a great, but such an awful, idea since there's a reason baklava comes in small pieces. Then one day I went into a PA Supermarket starved for sweets, and in the prepared foods section, lo and behold, baklava.

Best Montreal BaklavaNormally I would never think that baklava sitting in the fridge in a PA could be amazing. It probably wasn't real butter, it probably was dry and bland. Then I saw that there was a good centimetre-deep pool of syrup soaking into the bottom of the baklava. It looked rich and flaky, with the golden colour I dream about, and I had to buy it. Honey syrup got everywhere, waterfalls of nuts attacked my clothes, and pastry dissolved on my tongue as I chewed the thousand layers to extract the sweet syrup.

Afroditi BakeryThe container said the baklava came from Afroditi Bakery. I'd never heard of it, but I told myself that some day I would go there. Now that I knew where to get my baklava fix, I was temporarily sated. That all changed when I wrote the Best Montreal Desserts post. I couldn't very well write that Afroditi Bakery had the best baklava if I'd never been to the bakery. So I went, only to discover that directly across the street lay another patisserie specializing in baklava. I'd heard the name before - Patisserie Efes. I walked in to discover display cases full of different kinds of baklava, and there it was again, my heavenly centimetre-deep syrup pool. So began the great Montreal Baklava Throwdown.

Montreal Baklava Throwdown2 mouths, 2 plates, and 8 pieces of baklava later, there was a winner.

BEST BAKLAVA: Afroditi Bakery's Walnut Baklava Triangles (pictured above). Rich and satisfying. To be honest, the baklava wasn't as good this time as it was when I found it at PA. It could have been the fact that having it sit in the fridge allowed the flavours to combine better? The butter flavour was weaker, so the honey wasn't as intoxicating, but the sticky pastry texture was perfect because the syrup soaked through every layer, and didn't just drown the bottom. There was more honey than nuts (an essential part of Greek baklava versus Middle Eastern), so you don't end up chewing bland walnuts long after you've swallowed the mouthful's allotment of syrup.
Afroditi BaklavasAfroditi had other kinds of baklava too, like their baklava cigars wrapped in chocolate (which kind of taste like tiny Snickers bars), or their square versions with almonds or pistachios, but they just didn't compare to the honey-drenched walnut triangles.

But, coup de coeur for RUNNER-UP Patisserie Efes. The owner makes all the phyllo pastry for 3 entire display cases worth of food by hand, every day except Sunday. That's hours and hours of pressing flour into butter and rolling it insanely thin, and that's just to make the pastry, not the desserts themselves. That involves buttering and layering every single piece of his pastry individually.
Dryer Baklava

Under-Syruped Baklava at Patisserie Efes

It turns out Patisserie Efes is actually Turkish, a country whose baklava is not dry like its neighbours to the east, and is much closer to Greek baklava in terms of syrup soaking. Conveniently located a hop, skip and a jump across the Aegean Sea from Greece, the milk-less land of honey, it seems that the reason I didn't like Efes' turkish baklava as much was that they don't actually use honey in their syrup. Their baklava uses 50% butter and 50% vegetable shortening, as opposed to Afroditi's 100% butter pastry that also has butter in the syrup. So add this to the fact that there's no honey involved and Efes could use a swimming pool's worth of honey-less, butter-less syrup and I still wouldn't be happy with it. It just doesn't taste like anything. So the texture is right, but the flavour wasn't what I was looking for.
Patisserie Efes Walnut BaklavaEFES' BAKLAVA: Their triangle baklava was topped with pistachios and their smaller, less luscious-looking square version was topped with walnuts. The walnuts won hands down. The owner told me that the pistachios came from Iran and California because the best ones that come from Turkey cost too much.
TulumbaThe other highlights of Efes were Tulumba (deep-fried pastry soaked in syrup like Mexican Churros) and the only butter-free option, Seker Pare (white cake topped with pistachios), though if you don't like the house syrup you won't love these either.Seker Pare
Oh, you can buy Afroditi Bakery's honey in a small bottle, a medium bottle, a large bottle, or a jug. The next time I want to make my own baklava I know where to go for the honey...but then, I also know where to go for the baklava.

Afroditi Bakery
Expect to Pay: About $2.50 for a large piece of honey-soaked joy
Hours: Mon-Wed 8am-8pm, Thurs-Sun 8am-9pm
514-274-5302
afroditi@afroditi.ca

Patisserie Efes
Expect to Pay: About $1.00 for a smaller baklava triangle, less for the other pastries
Hours: 6am-8pm, daily
514-495-6535

Discussion

72 Comments

Furrry / March 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm
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is it me or is the front page looking whack?
Margot / March 29, 2010 at 03:49 pm
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Thanks, Furrry, for being such an astute reader. That page was looking wiggity-whack, and not just regular-type.

Now that it's fixed, though, we can all sit back and enjoy large mouthfuls of Turkey's finest treat.
Michael / April 5, 2010 at 05:12 pm
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How come you didn't review Samos bakery? That place has really awesome greek baklavas! and the old lady at the counter is irresistible!
petey / April 6, 2010 at 04:14 pm
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Really, you can't have a baklava throwdown in Montreal without Patisserie Mahrouse (Syrian) and Patisserie Amal Bohsali (Lebanese). Do check them out!
Amie replying to a comment from Michael / April 11, 2010 at 08:43 am
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I think I always thought Samos was Portuguese because of the buns, but after a bit of checking, it's definitely Greek. I'm ashamed to say I missed the baklava. Next time I have a craving, I'll know where to try. Are they syrupy??? Thick with honey and butter?? Have you tried Afroditi to compare?
Amie replying to a comment from petey / April 11, 2010 at 08:46 am
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Are Syrian baklava as dry as Lebanese? It's not that that's a bad thing, just that I love it soaking it honey syrup, which is a notoriously Greek take on the dessert. Just personal preference, and there's only so much baklava a girl can eat (that's a lot, thank goodness). I've heard both those places are great, though, and definitely deserve some attention.
Jonathan / May 17, 2010 at 11:45 pm
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Yes, Syrian is dryer than Greek.
sam / April 19, 2011 at 01:27 am
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Honey is only used in greek baklava. Neither Turkish nor Syrian/Lebanese backlava uses it.

Turkish baklava can be really stellar, far superior to anything I've had in Greece, but only if you have it from some of the better places in Gaziantep, near the Syrian border. Gaziantep is a culinary capital and the area where most pistachios are grown in Turkey. I was there this winter and was really blown away by the quality of their pastries and kabobs.

The problem with turkish bakalava is that it is very perishable. You can store it at room temperature for 2 to 7 days (depending on the season/temp) before it loses its freshness. Some of the layers are lightly soaked with milk.

Syrian baklava is *a bit* dryer and keeps far longer. The ones from PA or other supermarkets are mostly subpar, if not poor. You have to go to Mahrouse or Bohsali (which is from Beirut, Lebanon) for great levantine baklava in Montreal. Both of these places feature backlava that is very well balanced, not too sweet, with great quality pistachios (from Aleppo, Syria, which along with those from Gaziantep are the best in the world) and perfect ratio of nuts to dough.

The drippy honey version that you find in some greek stores are a bit of an overkill IMHO.
Amie / April 19, 2011 at 09:08 am
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Wow, thanks for the lesson sam! Now all I want to do is go to Gazientep. I'll have to give better quality Turkish baklava a second chance.
sam / April 21, 2011 at 02:30 pm
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Cheers Amie.

A few links on the subject you might enjoy:

http://articles.latimes.com/1999/may/26/food/fo-41005

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3wsFLEVw68

http://mademoiselleistanbul.com/2010/05/19/imam-cagdas-temple-du-baklava/

All those are more specifically about the most famous restaurant in Gaziantep, but I've found that some of the many other places were just as good.
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I like Afroditi myself very much. Only place I've found better baklavas was in Greece. Kalambaka had 2 amazing bakeries, right in the heart of town.
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