Sofra

Sofra, located right on the border between Cambridge and Belmont, is the sister cafe to what is quite possibly my favorite Boston area restaurant, Oleana. The space evokes the feeling of a Middle Eastern cafe and shop, with copper tables and brightly colored cushions. The front counter where you order is almost a work of art, with dozens beautiful pastries and mezze are laid out for you to see. Scattered around the shop are various take-home items: spices, bags of cookies, crackers and more.

I’d popped into Sofra from time to time over the past few years to get a pastry and I’ve had some very good ones. The sesame cashew bar is outstanding, as is the Syrian shortbread. Last weekend I finally visited and sat down for a meal. With their extensive array of pastries, meze, breakfast dishes and more, the offerings at Sofra lend themselves to more snack-y meals. Appropriately, the word Sofra is derived from an Arabic word meaning picnic.

We ended up choosing an items from several of the menu categories. We started off with the surprise donut, which I chose of course because of the word “surprise” in the name. It’s offered every weekend and this past Sunday it was filled with fig pastry cream and topped with a honey-cardamom glaze. On the outside it looked delightful, but I became suspicious when I picked up the donut and felt how heavy it was. Cutting into it revealed that it was more filling than donut, overwhelmingly so. And while I love fig, I felt the fig flavor just did not come across in the pastry cream, and it ended up being cloying and excessive.

Out of everything we tried, I enjoyed the walnut hummus with cilantro and pomegranate the most. It was dense and slightly salty with a richness from the nuts. In hindsight though, I think it would have gone better alongside a few other mezze rather than on its own. I have no problem enjoying a bowl of hummus and pita on its own, but this was a firmer, drier hummus, as you can probably tell from the photo, and it would have paired nicely with some other flavors and textures.

The egg sandwich with bacon, haloumi and feta butter on aleppo brioche sounded delicious, but the reality did not quite meet our expectations. For starters, at $7, the sandwich was smaller than expected. The components were present in very small quantities and overall, it was fairly dry. I am not quite positive the feta butter even made it onto the sandwich, because I kept thinking some sort of spread would be nice. There was just far too much bread for the amount of filling.

Not fully satisfied with our meal, I went back up to the counter to pick out one more sweet treat. Always a sucker for a sandwich cookie, I selected the Persian spice graham with white chocolate ganache. The flavors were lovely and a nice pairing, though the thickness of the graham would have lent itself well to more filling.

Though I was not entirely satisfied with my first meal at Sofra, I was more frustrated because I know that there is so much more there that is good. I have had many of the mezze there that are also served at Oleana as well as several pastries and have been happy with all of those. Which is fortunate because if I were to base my opinion of Sofra solely on this one experience, it’s likely I would not return.  I know that they can be great, it just didn’t come across in the dishes we tried that day.

Sofra
One Belmont Street
Cambridge, MA
Sofra Bakery and Cafe on Urbanspoon

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25 Responses to Sofra

  1. funandfearlessinbeantown says:

    It’s a bummer that the egg sandwich fell flat!

  2. Daisy says:

    bummer this experience fell flat. The doughnut definitely looks too cloying and the egg sandwich – wow, way to small for $7!!

    I love their mezze bar and had a really great “from the kitchen” lunch dish there, which seems like a much better value, compared.

  3. athena says:

    I’m relieved to read this less-than-stellar review for Sofra because I felt the same slight disappointment when I visited recently. I love Middle Eastern cuisine (especially pastries!) and I was excited by the variety offered there, but the service was cold and, for the taste/size, the food was overpriced. I would return, but I’d rather enjoy some tasty comfort food served by pleasant staff members at Flour.

  4. Ranjani says:

    I’ve never been to Sofra, but I’ve been curious about it. Too bad the egg sandwich was disappointing – it really does sound delicious from the name!

  5. Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic says:

    I love Sofra and often have lunch there (in fact we are going today!) – too bad your first meal there wasn’t amazing. But yes, you should definitely give it another chance. My favorites are the cheese borek, the mezze plate, avocado hummus (if they have it), and of course the chocolate baklava :)

  6. JoJo says:

    I love how the front counter looks! Too bad your sandwich didn’t live up to its name!

  7. It’s always a bummer when you have such high hopes for a place, and then it doesn’t quite live up. Especially when the food SOUNDS so good!

  8. Stinks when you had such high hopes, but your pictures of the case goods alone would make me want to go!

  9. wishfulnals says:

    I love Sofra, but have to say that I’ve only had cookies and coffee. :) I’ve been wanting to try Oleana forever! One of these days…

  10. Deeeee says:

    Sorry to hear that you had a bad experience! I have only ever been there for breakfast and it is kick-ass! I always get the Turkish Breakfast, which comes with a soft egg in phyllo, pita- breaded delicious fried feta, slightly weird dried olives, sweet-tangy spoon fruits, thick,creamy greek yogurt… mmmm There is also the Shakshuka, a poached egg in a savory, spicy tomato sauce that is just delicious…

  11. Meghan says:

    I have been dying to go here for years!

  12. Carole says:

    I may never get there for the food, but I LOVE the building! Is it from the 1930’s?

  13. I love trying out new pastry shops. This looks like the best place to grab just that and be on my way. Thanks for the great (yet not great?) review!

  14. Sacha says:

    That’s too bad you didn’t have a good experience at Sofra. I’m a big fan, but that teeny sandwich and scary-looking donut definitely look off!

  15. Sacha says:

    That’s too bad you didn’t have a good experience at Sofra. I’m a big fan, but that teeny sandwich and scary-looking donut definitely seem off!

  16. Erica says:

    They definitely have quite the spread! Bummer it didn’t meet your expectations :( That olive oil pistachio cake sounds interesting

  17. I’ve never been to Sofra before, but they sell some of their products in a little market by my apt and they always look good. Very unique stuff! Too bad it didn’t wow you!

  18. Go back and get the chocolate-hazelnut baklava and a chocolate chip cookie. You will not be disappointed!

  19. Shannon says:

    oh no! i’ve been wanting to go there for FOREVER. must get to it soon ;)

  20. Sarah says:

    Sounds so delicious! I will make a trip to try it!

  21. Joanne says:

    I’m sorry you had a less-than-stellar experience! From what I could tell it seems that everything had such POTENTIAL but just didn’t quite meet it. Hmm. Have to say, I’d still love to go there and try out some of the baked goods. I’ll just have to do some research first on what’s worth it!

  22. Sorry to hear about the bad egg sandwich. Generally I’ve enjoyed my experiences at Sofra. Try some chocolate snowcap cookies there next time!

  23. Sam says:

    try the sweet potato pancakes with mustard and baked apple slices- amazing.

  24. I’ve been to Sofra a handful of times and it definitely has its good and not so good items

  25. Meesh says:

    im actually upset that i haven’t been here yet. what have i been doing with my weekends?

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