Kunafa’s specializes in the Middle Eastern pastry for which it’s named, a sweet pie with stretchy cheese topped with crumbled pistachios and soaked in syrup.
Co-owned by Basim Jubran and Shadi Issa, the former was inspired by a visit to Habibah Sweets in Jordan to bring a kunafa-specific shop to Canada embracing traditional rituals and ingredients.
Seating is sparse but there is an L-shaped bar where coffee, tea and kunafa could be enjoyed. Most of production takes place in the back but finishing touches, including full trays of kunafa being dramatically flipped upside-down on top of the heads of staff, take place in full view of customers.
Special equipment was flown over from Jordan in order to perfect the dough and cheese, produced here in partnership with a local factory.
Kunafa is actually baked on open grills rather than in an oven in order to bake the dough without overcooking the cheese and ensuring there’s a nice crunch on top rather than turning the whole thing to mush.
Kunafa Classic (also referred to here as “Nabulsi” and more widely as nama or na’meh, $4.99) has a smooth top, dyed reddish orange with food colouring in a traditional presentation style.
Whereas some places use mozzarella to imitate the stretchiness of typical cheesy kunafa, this place uses salty, elastic Nabulsi cheese.
All kunafa are cooked in tons of ghee, and the dough soaks up all the simple sugar-water syrup it can handle, making for a very buttery and cheesy but sweet snack experience.
Kunafa Kishna (also $4.99) is topped with crispy shreds of dough that add slightly more texture and lightness to the heavy pastry.
Bourma ($1.25 apiece) are kind of like a rolled version of kunafa that reminds me a little of baklava, crispy and of course sticky on the outside with fluffy kishta cheese filling.
Znoud El Sit ($1.25) are also filled with a kashta cream, a rolled pastry made with a smooth dough instead of shreds and topped with pistachio and some Nutella that brings a slight chocolatey western influence, tempered with a distinct rosewater flavour.
Awama ($1.25) are kind of like a Middle Eastern version of Greek loukoumades honey donuts, or even a distant relative of a Timbit. Drenched in syrup, they’re dense yet fluffy with a sticky, crispy exterior.
Bitter, grainy and strong Turkish coffee ($2.99) is made with an Arzum Okka machine designed specifically for the purpose.
Branding and design by Dawar Rashid has a modern, clean look that stands out in the old school strip mall this place is a part of, which also houses Middle Eastern heavy hitters like Pizza Land Halal.