music in the park san jose

.Oklava Cafe

A new Turkish café tempts the senses

music in the park san jose

People who love baklava will find a haven of Turkish delights at Palo Alto’s Oklava. Unable to find readily available Turkish food, Elif Asli Uzun and her business partner Aziz Aslan decided to open their own café. 

Oklava is the Turkish word for rolling pin. Sitting with Uzun in front of their University Avenue storefront, she confirmed that using a rolling pin is the standard way to prepare the (approximately forty layers) of baklava dough. 

Professionally, Uzun works as a graphic artist. She designed the café’s interior, picked the products and curated the menu. Aslan is the daily operations manager in charge of the staff and product sourcing. 

The baklava, Turkish delights and pastries are imported from Bursa and Istanbul made, she said, “with the finest ingredients, such as Turkish pistachios.” Upon arrival, the Oklava kitchen finishes the bakes in house.     

“Turkish women cook a lot,” Uzun said with a smile. “Fresh. Every day. We have lots of gatherings at home.” Like her mother, she cooks regularly but making the many varieties of baklava for sale at the cafe would require a small battalion of dedicated pastry chefs. “In Istanbul, if you go into a baklava shop, these are the varieties you will see,” Uzun explained. “We picked the most common ones.”

On any given day, there are over a dozen baklava varieties to choose from. A slice of double pistachio ($3) is a best seller but the display case features baklava made with carrot, fig, walnut, or chocolate. Apart from the ingredients, Uzun explained that the way the dough is rolled also affects the flavor. “Like shapes of pasta, each time you have a bite, you’ll taste something different. I recommend trying each of them.” 

Uzun’s favorite type of baklava is called sütlü nuriye ($4), which incorporates milk instead of syrup. “This is creamy and almost looks like tiramisu, something in between that and baklava,” she said. It’s also less sweet than baklava made with syrup.  

As for the case of Turkish delights themselves, there are more than 30 varieties to choose from. Uzun likes a mix of both sweet and sour flavors, but a double roasted one is considered the classic delight in Turkey. “You have your Turkish coffee with a double roasted Turkish delight next to it,” she said. I tried the pistachio chocolate cream and was pleasantly surprised by the marshmallow texture that surrounded a nutty, dense chocolate center.

But Oklava isn’t solely dedicated to serving sweets. I ordered a simit platter ($7.50), which comes with lovely little ramekins filled with cream cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and olives. Shaped like a bagel with a much larger center, simit isn’t as soft or puffy as its more familiar breaded cousin. Mine was covered in sesame seeds but other flavors include chia seeds, sunflower seeds, or whole wheat.

For Uzun, who moved to the United States as an adult, Oklava represents a direct link to the food she grew up eating and to her extended family who remain in Turkey. She and Aslan have established, what she describes as, “a traditional Turkish café in a cozy, modern setting.”

Oklava Cafe, open Sun to Fri 8:15am–10pm and Sat 8:15am–11pm, 205 University Ave., Palo Alto. 628.234.4314.


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