There are times when I can enter a bakery and tell immediately if the pastries will taste good, just from looking at them. This recently happened the instant I stepped into Maral’s Pastry. Maral Sarkhoshian and her baker husband, Hovsep, have built a following for eight years in the back corner of a San Fernando Valley strip mall, next to a barber shop. I was excited to try Hovsep’s baked goods for weeks, ever since LA Times writer Charles Perry listed Maral’s Pastry as one of the Top 10 Armenian bakeries in Southern California. Happily, the excitement was warranted.
Maral’s Pastry isn’t L.A.’s largest Armenian bakery, but their display case still features more enticing cookies than most.
The bottom three racks of this display case held nine different varieties of baklava.
These snail-shaped tahini cookies were immortalized in the LA Times, with good reason. The layers of pastry were crammed with a terrific sesame filling. Back when the Sullivan Street Bakery existed, I ate a snail-shaped pastry known as a lumaca, which was sensational, filled with a variety of nuts. This tahini cookie was better, browned and crispy at the base, tender and flaky up top.
Maral wouldn’t sell less than a pound of baklava, which was fine by me. Here’s my pound ($7), hand-chosen by Maral herself. She included two varieties of “fingers,” bird’s nests filled with whole pistachios and pine nut phyllo cookies sprinkled with crushed pistachios. She said the cookies would last for a month before noticing any difference. I told her there was no chance they’d last that long. And there wasn’t. The pastries were gone within two days.
Here is a pair of date cookies, similar to Fig Newtons, but filled with a different Old World fruit.
Barazek, pistachio-studded sesame cookies, also came in chocolate, but I opted for the simplicity of these treats.
During my visit, Maral reavealed that all the photos in the LA Times spread were of pastries that her husband baked. I could see and taste why Maral’s Pastry was profiled. I’ve now eaten baklava and pastries from all ten of the bakeries in the LA Times Top 10, and while I enjoyed a few of the other bakeries, Hovsep clearly produces a superior product. My only complaint: Maral’s Pastry isn’t in my neighborhood.