Pasha's Veg-Friendly Turkish Kicks it Old School, for Better and Worse
Sometimes it's possible to walk through the door of a restaurant and travel back in time. I recently did so at Pasha, where a friend and I were seated in the type of expansive dining room that's all but obsolete in sky-high-rents-New York, and where the first Turkish mezze plate to be delivered to our table was garnished with a sprig of curly parsley. (So were each of the rest of the courses.)
Nevertheless, dining at Pasha was a mostly positive experience. That first herb-decorated plate was Mucver ($8.50), described on the menu as "oven baked zucchini and dill pancakes." The resultant square was more akin to bread pudding, loaded with squash and herbs baked into an eggy, creamy base. The dish lacked salt, but definitely benefited from the ultra-creamy dollop of rich homemade yogurt served on the side.
Continuing on the theme of dairy goodness was a plate of Sigara Boregi ($8.50), cigars of crispy phyllo stuffed with salty feta cheese. The pastries were crunchy and not overly greasy, but their unadorned state was a little disappointing—they could have benefited from, say, a bright herb-based dipping sauce.
But Imam Bayildi ($9.50), a traditional baked stuffed eggplant, was perfect as-is. At Pasha the dish arrives as one tiny adorable baby eggplant, its flesh soft and creamy, piled high with a sweet tangle of cooked-down onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic, then topped off with a sprinkling of crunchy pine nuts. The dish was served cold, a variation I had never tried before, and I really enjoyed it: I was able to taste each ingredient, yet they all come together as a coherent whole.
A main dish of Sebzeli Guvee ($15.50) tasted like something my imaginary Turkish grandmother would make: a comforting, cooked-down stew featuring baby food-soft green beans, eggplant, zucchini, okra, and celery root in a brothy tomato sauce which the myriad vegetables had infused with tons of flavor. Again, the dish lacked seasoning, but when did Grandma ever add enough salt to anything?
If you're looking for modern Mediterranean bites bursting with flavor, then Pasha likely isn't the spot for you. But if you're craving an old-school New York experience complete with dressed-up waiters and a plush, quiet dining room, with enjoyable but somewhat standard flavors to match the decor, then a night at Pasha might be just the ticket.
About the author: Lauren Rothman once interned at Serious Eats and recently graduated from journalism school. Try the original recipes on her blog, For the Love of Food, and check out her (many) food photos on Instagram.