Friday, May 18, 2012

Natas Pastries: Po Tat Til 11pm in San FERNANDO Valley!?!

Dim sum lovers know that little palm-sized bright cheery circle of sunshine - dan tat 蛋撻 or egg custard tart - makes for a happy finish to the meal.  Its cousin, po tat 葡撻, which originated in Macau and is typically recognized by its lightly bruleed top - had also become very popular at dim sum houses everywhere.

Before last week, this Valley girl (as in SFV) had to trek to the SGV to get my fix of either tart.  But on a whim, or just from sheer exhaustion from my daily hour plus commute, I had stopped by a Portugese bakery that I must have driven past a thousand times.  The minute I set foot in the place I wish I had stopped by MUCH sooner...because they have PO TAT!!!!!!  Ok, not really - they are "natas" not po tat, but very close!!

So for those who aren't familiar, what exactly is a po tat? It's a tart filled with a custard that is slightly caramelized on top, and tastes like a lighter, much less sweet, more airy version of creme crulee! The main difference between this and a dan tat is that the 'crust' is more flaky vs. a denser, more buttery, more cookie-like crust - and the caramelization of that top layer of custard.  

Po tat originated from pasteis de nata in Lisbon, where legend has it 18th century Catholic nuns created this confection from leftover egg yolk, and a closely guarded recipe that is believed to include milk, sugar, butter, water, salt. 

When Europeans arrived in Macau, as the story goes, an Englishman brought natas with him - the tart was made popular in the Portugese colony and made its way from there to Hong Kong and Mainland China, where it evolved into dan tat, first served in tea houses, then as a staple of dim sum meals!

Anyways, back to Sherman Oaks and Natas, a cozy cafe in a small strip mall on Ventura - apparently, "nata" means cream, and that is what chef Fatima Marques chose to name her lovely little nook of a cafe!  A charming space with blue and white tiles, chandeliers and rustic wooden furniture, parking may be hard to come by since Natas is well known in the area now for its authentic Portugese pastries - but it's worth the trouble!

So, what is served at Natas Pastries is the original - the pastry that preceded po tat and dan tat. 

The difference between pasteis de natas ($2 each or dozen minis for $15) and po tat seems to be that the crust is way more flaky, like layers of phyllo, and served very crisp, with a sprinkling of cinnamon and powdered sugar on top.  How'd it taste? Gorgeous. Especially when fresh out of the oven, with the centers still warm and soft and silky smooth - nicely offset by the crisp flaky crust - the caramelization perfectly in balance with the more subtly sweet custard below. I still prefer po tat with its denser crust, but Natas' natas are amazing too, especially to have in the SFV!!!
Natas also serves a full menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring Portugese tapas.

All this, and unlike other bakeries - or even just businesses in general - in the SFV - they are open til 11pm daily!!!  So gainfully employed folks who don't work in the area actually have a shot at the little rounds of wonderfulness - a bit of sweetness to look forward to at the end of a long day!

Gonna be back way too often (gotta make up for lost time)!!

Natas Pastries
13317 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks,CA91423
Ph: 818.530.5888 

Parking: Limited spaces in open lot attached to strip mall, or meters on Ventura Blvd.


Natas Pastries on Urbanspoon

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