Off Twitter yesterday, the following question:
@OCWeeklyFood where can I go to get good baklava? Its my father in laws birthday tomorrow.
I immediately answered Ara's Pastry in Anaheim, while Dave offered Sarkis Pastry and Victory Bakery, also in Anaheim, heart of anything Middle Eastern in Orange County. All are good choices, but I neglected to ask the person what ethnicity the tweeter's father-in-law is, as I could've offered a more specific answer.
Different baklavas span the county, from Greek restaurants to Afghani, all suited for the gustatory traditions of their regulars. The Greek-style baklava I've had places the emphasis on phyllo dough; the Turkish variety atDoner G
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thicker and denser, the Persian kind at Wholesome Choice in Irvine swimming in rosewater. Sarkis and Ara's are Armenian Lebanese takes, while Victory Bakery is straightforward Lebanese. I prefer Ara's out of all, not just because it's the humblest restaurant, not just because it's kinda kitty-corner from Kareem's, but because...well, let me rip myself off at this point:
And, of course, there's baklava, the Middle Eastern dessert standard baked here in eight distinct styles: shaped into diamonds, hexagons, flaky cylinders . . . nearly every shape in the Game of Perfection. Although all of Ara's baklavas are bite-sized, their taste will subsume all other senses. The interplay between the tart pistachio filling, fine wisps of phyllo dough and a judicious sprinkling of rosewater translates into three presentations of sweet twirling into one within your mouth. One type of baklava, appropriately called "the queen," features layers of flaky dough pricked up around rosewater-bathed pistachios and looks like a crown.
But I wouldn't even get the baklava here--the best dessert is the maamouls, especially the date ones, the fruit mushed into a spread that makes Fig Newtons taste as good as cork.
Ara's Pastry, 2227 W. Ball Rd., Anaheim, (714) 776-5554.