Natas Portuguese Bakery
Scene of the Crime: Natas Portuguese Pastries
13317 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
I sometimes get the question, “What are you?” This usually translates to something like ‘you have brown hair, brown eyes and a sharply angular face and I can’t tell if you’re Italian or Jewish or Hispanic or Eastern European or maybe even Armenian.’ And I always answer with the same thing:
Here’s the thing, though: I’m actually only one-quarter Portuguese. The rest of me is Irish and mixed-together Caucasian (the usual suspects — English, Scottish and probably even more Irish). But everyone is part Irish (we’re a breeding people) and mixed-together Caucasian, so I always clung to my quarter pie piece of Portuguese. Our modern American melting pot of ethnicity is wonderful, but sometimes you want to lay claim to a cultural identity; sometimes you want to point to a map and say ‘this is where I come from.’ All of this leads me to the Dessert Patrol of the day: Natas Portuguese Bakery.
Founded by Lisbon native Fatima Marques, Natas is the ONLY place to Los Angeles where you can get Portuguese pastries. The Natas website says that the most famous Portuguese pastry is the nata (a crisp puff pastry shell filled with custard filling that tastes like crème brûlée), but for my money the malasada is by far the best Portuguese pasty in existence.
(Malasadas are doughnut-like pastries — sans holes — of Portuguese origins that are deep fried and then covered in granulated sugar and THEY ARE DELICIOUS. As a child, my family used to travel to Oahu, Hawaii every few years. Our absolute favorite place on the island was Leonard’s Bakery, which is famous for its incredibly delicious Portuguese malasadas. Leonard’s Bakery is known for making the best malasadas outside of Portugal and I absolutely agree with the general consensus — Leonard’s malasadas, always fresh and warm, are absolutely incredible. One time I was craving a malasada so badly that I almost booked a $500 flight to Honolulu. If I hadn’t been over my credit limit I would have a lei around my neck and malasada sugar all over my blissfully happy face right now.)
So of course I had to try the malasadas at Natas and I was…a bit disappointed. Mind you, I am comparing them to the best malasadas in the country, which isn’t quite fair, but life isn’t fair and it’s time these malasadas realized it. The Natas malasada was tasty, but it was small and the dough was denser than I would have liked. It felt a bit more like a doughnut hole than a true malasada to me.
From there I moved on to the pasteis de coco, which is a rich coconut custard tart that tastes a lot like a sticky macaroon. I mean that as a compliment — the pasteis de coco was fantastically delicious. After that I tried the pasteis de feijao…
The people at Natas told me that the pasteis de feijao is a puff pastry shell that is filled with an almond/sugar paste and frosted with a light vanilla frosting and chocolate drizzle. A little internet research told me that the pasteis de feijao filling is actually made with white beans and slivered almonds. I thought the frosting was excellent but I wasn’t too crazy about the almond/bean filling. It wasn’t sweet enough for me, which I suppose would be a plus for people who prefer their desserts to be more savory.
Overall, I enjoyed my trip to Natas. The bakery/restaurant, with its blue and white glazed tiles, was charming and cozy. Natas recently launched a breakfast and lunch menu as well, so before the orgy of desserts I treated my mom to a delicious lunch of traditional Portuguese fare.
Obrigado to Natas for bringing delicious Portuguese pastries and food to L.A.!