Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Baking up Toronto's Finest Baklava For Eighteen Years-- Patisserie Royale...

Appearance-- flaky golden, nutty, scrumptiously-enticing... Taste-- crispy light, part pastry part chewy cookie, bursting with fresh nuts, just the right sweetness with hints of rose water and orange blossom... Experience-- eyes-rolled-back heavenly... Enter-- Patisserie Royale, baking up Toronto's finest baklava in central east Scarborough for nearly two decades. In their shiny new relocation in a commercial plaza on Kennedy near Ellesmere, I had the privilege of speaking to the owner's charming son, Azmi Jamous who I've known for a long time, having been a loyal and frequent customer for 14 years. My parents live in the area, and visiting them often means a visit to PR. They offer a variety of fresh, daily-made hand-crafted two to three bite-sized Lebanese and Syrian pastries from petit fours, cookies, macaroons, nougat  and mammoul, but its their exceptional baklava (pronounced baklava with a "w" in Arabic) that keeps me coming back.

Assorted Tray Mix reposted from Patisserie Royale

Rapid production in the facility happens early in the morning on their second floor; unfortunately I wasn't able to capture staff in action by the time I waltzed in. Entering their back kitchen, a rack of fresh delectable treats greeted me. I have to say it took some willpower not to grab a piece, turn away and stuff my face. The store's owner Mounzer Jamous was busying on the phone with his suppliers and I was invited to self-stroll around the store and help myself to photo-taking and inquiries with his son Azmi.

Only real clarified butter is used in their baklava.

An array of popular Middle Eastern cookies and pastries dazzles!
Pretty gift boxes makes hostess gifts a breeze!

As early as 9:30, a steady stream of customers were already walking in getting their morning pastry fix, or a little treat for the office. This happy man is a regular.

Azmi has been working at his father's store since 13. As we were talking, I can feel his tremendous respect for his father and pride for the family business. Prior to opening Pâtisserie Royale in Scarborough, the owner, Mounzer Jamous managed Pâtisserie Mahrousé in Montreal’s Park Extension, a bakery owned by the great-great-great grandson of Syria’s legendary Mahrousé family. After learning the secret art of making the tastiest pastries possible from the biggest name in Middle Eastern baking, Mounzer brought that knowledge with him to Toronto in 1997. Fast-forward 18 years, Patisserie Royale has been well-established as Toronto's best in Middle Eastern pastries. 

The impressive spread of baklava stuffed with almonds, cashews, walnuts and pistachios.

Not only are they delicious but this store's baklava look gorgeous-- each a work of art. My favourite of all-- Wardeh made with crispy phyllo shaped into pretty petals and filled with whole plump Iranian pistachios. There's no skimping here and you can certainly taste the premium quality of ingredients used!

From top left clockwise: Kolshkor (made with cashew nuts), Swar (pistachios), Baklava with Walnuts and Assabeh (almonds). As you can see the fine phyllo pastry is skilfully handled to create such distinct and attractive pastries. Swar for example is created by wrapping phyllo around a tube and delicately worked to resemble a pretty bracelet.

Reposted from Patisserie Royale

Another variation on their baklava are made with shredded Kataef (a special dough) resembling vermicelli rice noodles. This one-- Balaurieh is filled with crushed pistachios and a hint of rose water; its exquisite aesthetic composition takes precision and is treated like art to achieve.

Azmi tells me Borma, meaning twisted, is the most challenging one to make. It gets its name from the delicate art of twisting the pistachio filled shredded Kataef (a special dough). It is then lightly fried in cylindrical tubes to give it that rich colour and crispy bite, then sliced to sell. So phyllo or Kataef to make the crispy baklava base, real clarified butter removing the solids to create a light taste, superior quality nuts as a filling, rose water and orange essence provides hints of exotic flavour... but how about the syrup to make it sweet? Sorry, Azmi exclaims, that the family secret. All he could tell me is that it is a sugar & water-based solution.... Hmmm?

Classified as Mammoul-- shortbread cookies made with semolina wheat, Karabiges Madd is a scrumptious treat created in layers served with their homemade marshmallow syrup, fresh pistachio paste and ground pistachio topping. This was a first for me, and it was delicious-- nice texturally layered with a soft marshmallow surface giving way to a dense sweet pistachio centre ending with a crumbly cookie base. A similar textured confection but made in a pan called Mafroukeh- a true traditional Lebanese favourite eaten regularly by locals back home -- part baklava, part deconstructed pie, part pudding, is a sell-out at their store. They even ship orders to U.S. customers who find them on-line. It is such a popular everyday dessert in Lebanon but so rare to find in North America. They're more than happy to fill these traditional sweet orders to give their customers a moment to relive their nostalgic taste.

Asked whether they would ever spin off from their traditional baklava by injecting a combination of new or trendy flavours, it is a possibility but nothing too out there-- perhaps a drizzle of chocolate on the surface or mixed-in with the nuts for the stuffing. Time-honoured tradition over innovation preserves their conventional practices coupled with using only the best quality ingredients, which are why they have stood the test of time and still continues to stand out from the rest! Although at Susan's Savour-It! I am usually keen to take restaurant inspirations and turn them into my own home-style version, this is one exception where I gladly leave the "cooking" in the hands of the experts.

With Patisserie Royale owner's son Azmi Jamous

Visit Patisserie Royale at 1415 Kennedy Road Unit-26 (Southeast corner plaza Kennedy & Ellesmere) Scarborough to treat yourself or your guests. It really makes an impressive hostess gift. And if you see Azmi who's usually serving the counter, tell him I sent you. Cheers!

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