Damascus Pastry (NYC)

An enduring dream of honey and spice.

Our experience

Counting 15th week of lockdown here in NYC!  Last month, we resumed our dessert adventures, albeit by delivery, reviewing an extravagant breakfast pastry box, an assortment of elegant afternoon tea desserts, and a pie slice sampler.   This month, we have decided to forgo delivered desserts, and focus on dessert adventures within walking distance of our Brooklyn Heights home.  Another favourite dessert spot of ours in the neighbourhood may be found along the stretch of Atlantic Avenue.  One of the last remaining Middle-Eastern stores in a neighbourhood that was once occupied by a strong Lebanese and Syrian population,  Damascus Bread represents a journey away from middle America and back into time,  an escapade into the sweet scent of honey, spices and all things nice.  Whenever we are in the mood for a picnic, we come here for the za’atar bread and the fabulous little lamb meat pies.  And for something sweet, well…read on!

For between $15-20, you can cast your eyes on the long glass counter that occupies much of the space at Damascus, and cherry pick the pastries that beckon.  Or, if you are lazy or time-pressured, you can simply purchase any of the ready-to-go pre-packaged boxes.

Here’s a list of the pastries we selected on our most recent visit (note that depending on which country, there are oftentimes spelling variations for these desserts):

  • Baklava – flat diamonds of phyllo pastry layered with walnuts or pistachio.
  • Harissa cake  – a slab of honey-infused semolina, and with a sliver of almond embedded on its surface.
  • Kataifi balls – perhaps a case in point of how cultures are interlinked and influenced by each other, this has always reminded us so very much of the hairy wu kok (芋角) pastries at yum cha, albeit ultra-sweet here, while savoury there.
  • Lady’s fingers – so-called for their long tubular form, these are filled with nuts.
  • Osh el bulbul (or bird’s nest) – a circlet of pastry and more nuts.  We have more often seen this made with the stringy kataifi pastry.

And all this is aside from plastic containers of blush pink Turkish Delight and cut-to-order halva.  How to decide?!

Our verdict

Notwithstanding that NYC is a melting pot of cultures, Middle Eastern food doesn’t hold seem to hold much sway in the city.  In fact, we could probably count on two hands, the Middle Eastern restaurants that are celebrated in the city.  By comparison, Italian, French, Noveau American, Japanese, Korean cuisine…well, those are as countless as there are stars in the sky.   It’s rather curious how under-represented Middle Eastern and South East Asian cuisine is in NYC…truly, that’s one area where our hometown of Melbourne does it better (and more). 😛  All that said, if you are ever in the mood for something that is not yet another American-style cake or doughnut, close your eyes, count to three, and wish for a dream of honey and spice in Damascus…. while still in NYC.

Dessert adventure checklist

  1. ☑ Dessert destination: Damascus Bread & Pastry Shop, 195 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn Heights/Cobble Hill, New York.
  2. ☑ Budget: $-$$.
  3. ☑  Sweet irresistibles: Pastry.
  4. ☑  Must-eat: Baklava and harissa cake.
  5. ☑  The short and sweet story: An enduring dream of honey and spice.

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