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.
One Belmont Street