>> Monday, February 24, 2014
However, I loved this place so much on my first visit that I just wanted to at least tell you what I experienced.
We came on a busy Saturday right around 1PM. We thought we would be beating the lunch crowd but the tiny little cafe was packed to the brim. It's such a tiny little space, crammed with all sorts of delectable goodies that it's hard not to start shopping from all the tempting things on display, even though you're supposed to order your lunch.
I eventually pulled myself away from the house-made jams, baked goods, and cheeses to try my best to decide what to order. After putting in our order, we hovered around, waiting for guests eating at the very limited number of seats to finish.
Thankfully, we were able to find a seat before our food arrived (it took about 10-15 minutes for the food to be finished).
It was definitely worth the wait. The food was fantastic. Heck, all the food around me looked incredible. This is one of those restaurants where you jealously look at what your neighbor ordered and you say to your husband, "let's order that next time."
Meanwhile, guests sitting around you are also eyeing your dish and asking hungrily, "what is that?"
Yep, it's that kind of place.
We tried the Lamb Shawarma ($9) which came with pickled cabbage and tahini yogurt. The thin, pita-like exterior was nicely toasted while the lamb inside was extremely tender, oh-so-juicy, and delicious. The meat was pulled finely and sort of reminded me of the texture of pulled pork. The tahini yogurt added an element of tartness as well as creaminess and additional moisture to the juicy shawarma.
We tried one of the many specials on the board, the Red Pepper Dolma ($6). In Turkish cuisine, a "dolma" is any sort of stuffed vegetable. In this case, the vibrant red pepper was the vegetable and it was filled with a deep, rich, and flavorful ground meat sauce.
The dolma came half swimming in a bright and intense red sauce that had intense and vibrant tomato notes. In fact, when you mixed it al together, it really was not unlike a really, really high quality Bolognese sauce (but with a Turkish spice influence!).
I also loved the Spinach Falafel, which was served with a bright fuscia beet tzatziki and pickles ($8). The beet tzatziki added a lovely, tart pop to the rest of the falafel sandwich. The dollops of tahini (I think?) gave the sandwich a nice level of added creaminess and moisture. I highly enjoyed this and would totally consider getting again for lunch.
We had a slice of Black Pepper Cornbread from the bakery. Made with coarse cornmeal, the cake itself was crumbly, moist, and not at all too sweet. In fact, it sort hovered ambiguously between sweet and salty.
I really enjoyed this place. Yes, it's annoyingly crowded (maybe I came at the wrong time?), and parking can be difficult. They do have a parking lot that they share with the neighboring wine store which fits eight cars. However, there can easily be way more than eight parties inside at any one time.
Despite all that, it's worth the trek. The food is unusual - a mix of Turkish small plates, Mediterranean flatbread sandwiches, and a vast display of gorgeous, mouthwatering pastries from Maura Kilpatrick, the award-winning pastry chef behind this and Oleana. Every is executed well, and the flavors are delicious.
I can't wait to come back. Though maybe not on a Saturday right at lunchtime.
Sofra Bakery and Cafe
1 Belmont St
Cambridge, MA 02138