Mama’s Secret Bakery and Café is the latest addition to the stellar lineup of chic restaurants and boutiques along Third Street between La Cienega and Fairfax on Los Angeles’ Westside. It is best described as a diamond in the rough – that is, with the proper tweaks, it is sure to be a brilliant gem. I was alerted to Mama’s existence through Facebook – an increasingly common channel for discovering new hot spots. One of my Turkish connections on Facebook posted a notice about a Turkish breakfast Mama’s was offering one recent Saturday morning.
The notice reminded me of my own dreams several years ago now of opening a Turkish-themed tea house featuring a quintessential Turkish breakfast of simit, feta cheese, olives, honey, jam, and, of course, cay (tea!). So, foregoing our regular Saturday breakfast routine of Noah’s bagels, we headed to Mama’s for a trip down Turkish breakfast memory lane. Soon we found ourselves entering an expansive space – part quick-order / to-go counter crowded with yummy baked goods and other delectables, part eating area with eclectic chair-and-table arrangements at which to enjoy your food and drink, and part gallery / entertainment lounge.
We chose a small golden table-and-chair set near the window with an adjoining tray table and placed our order for the Turkish “serpme” breakfast. Although pricey at $17 a person, the breakfast assortment (loose translation of “serpme”) was delicious. Granted, there were no simit, but the spread did include freshly baked breads, including kurabiye, a dense, twisted, and glazed roll similar to one my mother-in-law used to make, feta and mozzarella cheeses, sweet butter, honey, jam, cucumbers, tomatoes, beef salami, and a delightful alternative to the traditional black Turkish tea.
Needless to say, my interest was directed at the tea. It arrived in a French press, already steeped to perfection, and ready to serve. The first sip proved to be a surprise. Had they created a blend of Turkish black tea and rose water? When we inquired, we learned that the surprise ingredient was lychee, not rose water. It was wonderful!
The tea at Mama’s, though, does not stop with their Turkish Premium Mix Tea. Ten additional loose-leaf teas grace their menu, six of which are organic. The others include an Earl Grey, a Moroccan Mint (both organic and non-organic versions), two oolongs – an Orchid Rose oolong and a Shan Ginseng oolong – and several green teas and green-tea blends. Despite a good selection of teas and a good understanding of how best to brew them, Mama’s made one mistake I have noticed all too often at other eating establishments that serve loose-leaf tea and even a few specialty tea shops – the teas had been placed in clear jars, exposing them to light. This, of course, causes them to deteriorate at a faster rate. When I pointed this out, though, the owner was clearly chagrined and promised he would correct the matter immediately.
Because Mama’s is, after all, a bakery, they are the perfect spot for afternoon – or even late morning – tea. Grab one of their freshly baked goodies and a pot of tea and enjoy!