Here is the second of four NYC restaurant reviews featuring spots where OTK dined during a recent excursion outtathekitchen.
70 W 71st St, New York 10023
(Btwn Columbus Ave & CPW)
Enter Pasha and step into a sultan’s ante-room. The bar, an elliptical oasis surrounded by deep-cushioned easy chairs upholstered with geometric designs, is bathed in a golden saffron light. Paprika red walls, warm and energizing, quickly conquered the chill of the damp Manhattan night and put my taste buds in overdrive. I was eager to indulge in Turkish cuisine inside this carpeted lair from the Ottoman empire.
The dining room was a cozy square with a comfy, surrounding wall bench. Small tables with candles skirted the room. Above was a ceiling of sky lights and beams which reflected the snowflakes falling out of the city sky, and leaning against each pillar was the waitstaff, impeccably attired and at the ready. Immediately, two gentlemen presented themselves at our table with water, bread, an olive-y herbed dipping oil, menus, and a richly accented explanation of the specials.
Pasha’s menu was very manageable and reminiscent of Greek, Arabic, and Mediterranean fare. They also offer a lunch and a brunch, and I made a mental note of that. My sister and I shared two appetizers: a zucchini pancake which was a frittata of baked egg and shredded zucchini and herbs, and the Zeytinyagli Enginar ,fresh artichoke hearts braised in lemon juice and olive oil with garden peas, potatoes, and carrots. These Mediterranean flavors atop tangy and lemony vegetables along with the herb-infused oil for the rich ekmer bread were great openers– just the right combination for a first bite of Turkish cuisine.
Sitting room in the bar at Pasha
In my entree, a Hunkar Begendi, cubes of baby lamb cooked in tomato sauce with rosemary and oregano were served over a charcoal roasted eggplant puree.The charcoal flavor of the eggplant was deep and earthy, and I enjoyed it spread over the rich flatbread. The tomato sauce was sweet and light with well-developed flavor sof sumac and cumin; the lamb cubes just melted in my mouth. This herbaceous stew of tender meat and vegetables cooked over coals brought me to a world of very ancient flavors. My sister’s entree was Sebzeli Guvec, a vegetarian combination of green beans, eggplant, zucchini, okra and celery root baked with tomatoes in an earthenware casserole. It was served with a tender rice. The okra was perfect, not gummy or overcooked, and the vegetables made for a great mix of texture, sweetness, and color in a light sauce. Portions were plentiful, too.
Welcome to Pasha
Braised Artichoke Heart in Lemon and Oil with Carrots, Peas, and Fresh Dill
Stew of Cubed Lamb with Charcoal Roasted Eggplant Pureé
Okra, Zucchini, Greenbeans and Celery Root Braised in Tomato Sauce
Everything on the dessert menu struck my fancy. I have a hard time turning down pastries featuring walnuts, pistachios, phyllo dough, honey, fruit, and cream combinations. There are also several options of sherbet and ice cream. We opted for the rice pudding and a Turkish coffee– both tiptop.
Service was outstanding, probably because we were there at an early hour, so our extremely polite servers were happy to accommodate our whims and to chitchat. The action eventually picked up, and Pasha was soon humming with diners, clearly fans of the establishment and local neighborhood folk– no touristy feel here. If you love the traditional kebabs, pilafs, kofte, and stuffed grape leaves, you can find these at Pasha, too. (For an excellent Turkish dish you can cook at home, click RECIPE .)
Pasha is not fancy, but just exotic enough to be a great combination of fun and fantasy. Food is comforting as is the warm setting. It was a quiet dining experience, something I had missed in the city restaurants of late. My sister and I were able to have a great visit over special food on our magic carpet ride.