European-style miniature pastries are the stars at this tiny, appealing bakery that pastry chef Harry Sarkees, formerly of the Kennedy Center, opened in September with his mother, Silva. She creates the cute, fruit-shaped marzipan and elaborate wedding cakes.
With so many stunning desserts, it is easy to overlook the refrigerated case in one corner where their Middle Eastern dips and salads are displayed ($9.99 per pound). But they are standouts as well, made from family recipes.
Baba ghanouj all too often can be too coarse and bland. The Sarkeeses' version has a distinctive, dense, smooth texture and fabulous smoky flavor. Its secret: eggplants for the dish are cooked on a charcoal grill. Here, the traditional hummus is loaded with good, garlicky flavor and is not the least bit oily. We also liked the beautiful, golden-sunset-colored and fresh-tasting pumpkin hummus, which would be an unexpected addition to a dip platter.
House-made thin flatbread, topped with sesame, caraway, mustard and poppy seeds ($3.50 for eight ounces), and toasted baguette slices ($2.50 per bag) are crunchy accompaniments to the dips.
Savory grape leaves are wrapped around a nicely seasoned stuffing of walnuts and pine nuts, a nice change from the usual rice filling. The simple but bright-tasting white bean salad has a lemony and herbaceous flavor.
We tried two dozen of the mini pastries ($1.49 each) and can attest that, in particular, the peanut chocolate cake, dulce de leche, Grand Marnier cake and Key lime tart are worth every calorie. The fruit- and cheese-filled Danish pastries ($1.75 each), beautifully glistening with apricot glaze or caramelized sugar, are superior to most any you will find in the Washington area.
The same can be said of the remarkably light baklava ($12.99 per pound), prepared with house-made phyllo dough. Don't overlook the rainbow cookies ($1.49 each), the little tricolor, three-layer marzipans seen in every old-fashioned bakery in New York. The Sarkees do an exceptional job with this old favorite.
-- Walter Nicholls (Wednesday, April 23, 2008)