Despite my Turkish roots (my mom’s half of the family is Turkish), I know very little about Turkish cuisine. I grew up eating food that was classified as either Iraqi or Israeli. I’m not sure why, but my mother’s native cuisine just didn’t end up on our plates. When I ask her about Turkish food nowadays, she says she doesn’t know much about it.
Luckily, our familiarity with Turkish food has little bearing on its quality. The cuisine is rich and the preferred spices, grains, desserts, and oils vary by region. Unfortunately, I don’t know whether Pasha’s food focuses on a particular type of Turkish cuisine, but I know that the food was delicious.
Pasha was a large, airy restaurant. The entire space is open and there is an area of the kitchen that is visible from the dining area, fostering the feeling that you’re eating a large, festive meal in someone’s home (albeit with people you’ve never met and won’t speak with during the meal… not an entirely uncommon experience for some around the holidays, I would say).
We started with bread that was cloudy-soft and delicious. A touch of salt made it absolutely addictive, but an incredible oil-based dip with pomegranate juice at the bottom was what made it truly stand out. The pomegranate juice was syrupy in consistency, giving the oil a honey-like texture. It was unlike any dip I’d ever had before.
Our next treat was lahma joun, a slightly spicy meat pizza that was surprisingly elegant and sophisticated. The crust was thin and crispy, a perfect base for the well-seasoned Mediterranean-spiced tomato- and cilantro-filled topping.
We also shared the kubbeh hamousta, which the waitress told us was the best of their kubbehs. While we didn’t have a chance to verify that it was better than the others, I can definitely say that it was delicious. The outer shell was thick but soft, and the stringy-steak filling on the inside was absolutely delectable. The slightly lemony sauce was a little bitter, but went well with the kubbeh. Each bite left a taste for more.
My urfa kebab dish similarly left me wanting more. Each nugget of deliciously seasoned lamb was incredibly juicy and full of flavor. While they were peppery, they weren’t too hot, which was almost a shame since I like my kebabs spicy. The tomato that came with the kebabs was lightly charred and was marked by beautiful grill lines. There was a side of tahini, as well, but I’m generally not a huge fan of tahini so I ate my kebabs plain.
Doug’s mom ordered the chicken steak with pistachio and cashew dish, which involved nuts wrapped in chicken breast. Although I think it’s more common than I realize, the idea seemed novel to me. Beyond that, the dish was amazing. The chicken was crispy but still moist while the nuts that filled the chicken roll gave each bite a nice crunch.
Doug, meanwhile, ordered the chicken fillet – mas’hana. What is chicken fillet – mas’hana, you ask? It looks like foccacia bread topped with chicken and vegetables. The chicken was tender and tasted like it was prepared shishlik-style (i.e. on a skewer). The crust below was soft and doughy. The spicing was lovely, but the paprika really carried the day on this dish.
We all shared the vegetables from the oven (also known as grilled vegetables) as a side, which were very simple but tasty.
We also shared the vanilla ice cream with silan sauce and halva dessert, which was absolutely delicious. While a little sweeter than ideal, between the smooth ice cream and crumbly halva, it had a wonderful texture.
As our meal at Pasha wound to a close, I couldn’t help but wish that I had grown up eating more Turkish food.