LAS VEGAS — First, the honey cake. Then, business. At Van Bakery, the priorities are in order. And those priorities proved fortuitous one morning last month when a visitor stopped by to learn about the new Armenian bakery at 4375 S. Buffalo Drive. Because what better way to learn about a bakery than by tasting a signature baked good? The honey cake is served in bars that alternate thin strata of honey-flavored cake and sweet pastry cream, with a sanding of honeyed crumbs on top. The cake is moist but with body, sweet but not cloying, and wickedly habit-forming.
Asmik Yetaryan, her husband and a son, Ed, own Van Bakery, named for a historically Armenian city in eastern Turkey. This Armenian family opened its first bakery 30 years ago in Los Angeles to serve the city’s large Armenian population. Over the years, the family opened two more bakeries, eventually serving not just Los Angeles customers, but also the handful of Armenian markets that had opened in Las Vegas.
“We were driving up products from L.A.,” said Ed Halebian. “We figured it would be easier to open up a store here instead of keeping on driving back and forth.”
The family, all now living in Vegas, launched Van Bakery last October. And the rest is honey cake.
Besides honey cake, Yetaryan and four Armenian assistants create from scratch about 50 Armenian breads and pastries. There are buttery crumbly khurabia – shortbread cookies – dusted with a flurry of confectioners’ sugar; and braids of choreg, an egg sweetbread traditionally made for Easter, just a bit dry as it should be; and bites of gata, a nut and sugar-filled pastry halfway between rugelach and croissants.
“It’s in the oven; I’m gonna bring it in a minute,” Yetaryan said of a fresh batch of gata headed for the table. Other items followed from the oven: pillowy pastry puffs, called khachapuri, filled with seven cheeses, and pastry turnovers – airy, flaky, crashy – with a hoard of green pepper and basturma, a spicy cured beef.