Crown Pastries had its beginnings in Aleppo, Syria. As a young boy, that's where Rasoul Salha worked in his grandfather's sweets store and learned how to make baklava and other syrupy treats.
Nowadays, Salha is continuing his grandfather's work here in this city. After moving to Canada in 2009, he and his family opened Crown Pastries in Scarborough. Here you'll find a host of Middle Eastern sweets, most of which are sold by weight. The business also offers catering service.
The words "BEST BAKLAVA" are displayed on the front window in large red font. The bar has been set high.
Inside, the seating is limited to six. That makes sense, since patrons typically take the pastries to go. The dĂŠcor is minimal, all the better to showcase the products, which are laid out on large silver trays lined up along a counter that spans the length of the store.
Everything is handmade on the premises, including the dough. Salha's brother, Ismail Al-Salha, explained to me that frozen dough is often salty and has to be masked with a lot of sugar to compensate. Using fresh dough means that they can hold back on the syrup.
Indeed, the pistachio baklava ($30/kg) has just the right amount of sweetness for my liking. The nuts are kept whole so as to give off a nice crunch. They are nestled between layers upon layers of phyllo dough -- 12 flaky layers on top and 12 syrup-soaked layers on the bottom.
Next up was the Mudalloukh ($22/kg), which was prepared fresh right before my eyes. Pistachios, almonds and cashews sit atop a ricotta-cream spread and a bed of milky kataifi dough. It tasted surprisingly light and refreshing.
The last item I tried was the Knafeh ($22/kg), a concoction of kataifi dough and nabulsi cheese laced with a bit of syrup and a hint of rosewater. A sprinkling of crushed pistachios tops it all off. The cheese makes the dish; it's delightfully gooey.
I'm no expert. I can't definitively say whether or not Crown Pastries has the best baklava in
town. But I brought some samples home for my partner, whose Armenian mother makes baklava all the time. He said it's on par with her's. So perhaps that says something.
Writing by Jeanie Tran. Photos by Hector Vasquez.