Dinner Review: Pasha's Fine Ottoman Cuisine
A Pasha was a royal title under the Ottoman Empire, roughly equivalent to the Lord in the British feudal system, and the restaurant is geared to the theme of Turkish royalty. It's designed to give the diner the experience of Ottoman Empire style opulence, albeit in a busy Smith St eatery. It succeeds for the most part; although the restaurant is busy, a lot of work has been put into the atmosphere.
Once past the frenetic open fronted entrance, with a few desultory tables pushed against the walls, customers are shown to one of two main dining rooms. The 'tent' room, slung with opulent Bedouin style drapery and trapping, and the more austere 'cave', an old fashioned Melbourne bluestone basement refitted into a desert cavern, replete with fibreglass ceiling and ringed with a water feature. It sounds terminally tacky, but it is actually quite nice. Tables are set close to the floor and diners sit on low-slung Ottoman cushions, listen to the sound of trickling water and slowly work themselves into a meaty stupor.
Pasha's menu is a comprehensive selection of classic Turkish food, which is in itself an eclectic legacy of regional delicacies that were subsumed by chefs of the Ottoman Empire. We started with a plate of mezze, a selection of appetisers including vine leaf dolma, cabbage rolls, filo cheese rolls, eggplant salad, lentil kofte, pilaki and helim.
As the mezze plate suggests, there's enough going on to keep vegetarians happy - with an extensive range of salads, gozleme (Turkish pastries) and slow cooked eggplant dishes on offer - the real star of Pasha's is the grill. As well as run of the mill meat dishes like lamb shish kebab and chicken Maryland, there are real treats to be found on the grill menu. The mark of a good Turkish restaurant is the kofte, a lamb rissole that is deceptively difficult to pull off. Pasha's does it with aplomb. Their kofte is delicately spiced and char-grilled to perfection, with a hint of tender, rare meat at the centre. Another outstanding dish is the Hunkar Beyendi, a slow cooked veal casserole served over a stroke-inducing puree of eggplant, walnuts and béchamel sauce. It's glorious, decadently comforting and excitingly exotic at once.
The selection of drinks is somewhat limited, with the wine list in particular lacking many up-market options, but it makes up for that by serving good quality raki, a searing, aniseed liquor that's almost impossible to get right in Melbourne. Pashas does, and diners looking for reasonably priced, delicious food could spend a couple of very happy hours indulging in slow cooked meats and fast drunk raki.
Pasha's Fine Ottoman Cuisine is at 108 Smith St, Collingwood. Ph: 9417 7007