There is a lot of bad baklava in this world. If you’ve ever fallen victim to soggy, honey-soaked, butter-laden pastry where nuts get lost and no amount of strong coffee can beat back the sweetness, you know what I’m talking about.
The only thing bad about the baklava at Güllüoglu Baklava & Cafe, which is allegedly baked fresh daily and flown in from Istanbul, is the distance it has to travel to reach its fans in New York.
Güllüoglu’s is the baklava that taxi driver Huseyin Kanal used to deliver when he first arrived in New York from Turkey two years ago. To this day, he claims it’s the best in the city.
I wanted to try Güllüoglu’s baklava while the house-made version at Uskudar – the great Turkish restaurant that Huseyin showed us on Saturday – was still fresh in my taste memory. On Monday, I stopped by Güllüoglu’s bakery in Midtown and picked up four different flavors: pistachio, chestnut, walnut and sour cherry.
I brought the goods to my writer’s group, determined to gather a series of opinions on whether Huseyin’s claim about this pastry was true. A few bites in, I had my answer.
My fellow scribes moaned. They gasped. They licked their sticky lips and told me it was the best baklava they’d ever had (and some of them didn’t even think they liked baklava).
Opinions varied on which rendition reigned: the boys liked the chestnut, the girls preferred the walnut, and all of us were pleasantly surprised by the sour cherry. The classic pistachio seemed to be everyone’s least favorite (I’d bet my hack license that the pistachio at Uskudar would beat it in a taste test).
What was so great about Güllüoglu’s baklava? The long journey from Istanbul had done nothing to undermine the flakiness of the filo, the freshness of the nuts or the balance of butter and honey.
While I admired the empty box, one of the members of the group pointed out that it had come from Güllüoglu Baklava & Cafe: “I like that the baklava comes first,” he said. A simple detail that spoke volumes about the bakery’s priorities and explained how $20 worth of pastry was so rapidly reduced to crumbs.
Güllüoglu Baklava & Cafe
982 2nd Ave (between 51st St & 52nd St) – Midtown East
1985 Coney Island Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11223