Before we dive into the review, let me just throw this little disclaimer out there: I've never had kunefe prior to trying this product. I've had plenty of international desserts, and I love Mediterranean food in general, but this isn't something I recall seeing listed on menus. Could be it was there and I passed over it because I had no clue what it was. Now I do and I just might try it next time I'm in a Turkish restaurant.
All that to say I won't be comparing this to other kunefe. I'll just be recounting our personal experience with this fascinating foreign dessert offering from TJ's. Kinda hard to lead into a review with a personal story when you don't have any anecdotes about the product in question. I know you're all heartbroken, but my disclaimer will have to serve as the lead-in here.
Found it in the frozen section of the Halsey Street, Portland store for $3.99. It wasn't immediately apparent that it was a dessert. I mean, it would have been if I had read the blurb on the back of the box, but that's just not my style. If I learn too much about something—anything, I tend to psych myself out and lose interest. Better to dive in as blind as possible and have no expectations.
The baking instructions were easy enough even for this guy. You simply place the unwrapped tray in the oven and bake for 20-22 min. There's a pouch full of a clear, sweet syrup that you add after baking, flip the dessert over onto a serving plate, and then sprinkle a packet of pistachio bits on the top. From frozen to serving in about 25 minutes. No major mishaps or fine examples of foodie-hackery here.
It's hard to describe. Pretty tasty if you ask me. Unusual. The outer portions are quite crispy. Wisps of phyllo dough grace the exterior of the dish. The core of the dessert is made of sweet, melty mozzarella and mizithra cheeses. The pistachio sprinkles are tastable but not overbearing. There might be something vaguely reminiscent of baklava here if it weren't for all that cheese. But as it stands, I like it, in the words of the late Chris Cornell, "cause it doesn't remind me of anything."
I'm always down for novel experiences.
Sonia had an equally difficult time describing the flavor, but she, too, liked it quite a bit—particularly its uniqueness. If you like sweet cheeses and phyllo-encrusted desserts, it's most definitely worth a whirl. Four stars from each of us.
Bottom line: 8 out of 10.