Indian Barfees: Tastier Than They Sound

Hillcroft is ripe with Indian and Pakistani eateries -- some large and well worn, others small and largely quiet during the day. Less common than either type is the Indo-Pak bakery, small storefronts that often act as squatters or share space with another restaurant.

Last week I dropped by a place offering "Hilal Gyros" only to discover that the gyro guy had taken vacation for a month to return to the homeland. Dern! But holding down the fort was a soft-spoken, veiled lady manning her single case of sweet delicacies. This is the Dilpasand Mithai bakery (6121 Hillcroft).

In her broken English, the proprietress could not explicitly explain to me what she had to offer, but wildly gesticulated to communicate her various recommendations. She smiled widely as I pointed to tray after tray, only clucking, frowning and waving me off a select few that were clearly not her favorites. Who says language is a barrier? Not these girls. I walked away with a to-go container full of colorful bites and zero expectations.

I went first for the badaam pak, which looked just like a doughnut and, goodness, how expectations can be deceiving. What I found was a hybrid of sorts: a firm, cookie-like texture surrounded by a dense cake and soaked in simple syrup. The ghulab jamun looked like a doughnut hole, but this one was also dunked in a syrup until saturated. Tasty, perhaps, but also super-mega-uber sweet.

My favorites of the lot were the barfees (their spelling - also burfi), dense, brightly-colored cake bites offered in a dreamcoat of flavors. I tried pistachio and coconut, both fine specimens of a dessert that has an unfortunate translation problem. No matter, the barfees were firm to the touch, almost fudge-like, yet crumbled with ease when asked. Lightly sweet with a teensy crunch, this is an afternoon treat I'll go back for again.

Perhaps best of all, a five-dollar bill will get you plenty of snacks for the sharing. Take 'em to your next gathering for a nibble that jumpstarts both taste buds and conversation.

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