With all the comings and goings along the ever-changing King Street south in Newtown, there’s a handful of stalwarts that have been consistently feeding us for many years.
Take these guys, for example. Pasha’s has had its fair share of owners, but how many Newtown restaurants can boast about being in business for 40 years? And the point of being Sydney’s first Turkish restaurant may be a valid one.
The rich and traditional décor is a real feast for the eyes. Mosaic lamps and table-tops, pottery, boncuk amulets and beads, rugs and handicrafts decorate almost every available space. And for the more flexible diners amongst us: the option to sit in the cushion room.
Meze is always a good place to start with a cuisine like Turkish. A little dangerous as I find it way too easy to focus on the hot and cold dishes, sip on vino and forget about the rest of the menu.
The karışık meze platter (26) is a taste-fest of hummus, spinach & garlic yoghurt, smoked eggplant, cucumber-garlic yoghurt and chilli-walnut. Bread comes with it, or course.
From the hot meze selection, it was the paçanga börek (14) that we dove into first. Thin, crispy and a tad on the oily-side, the golden pastry rolls are filled with aged pastirma and kaşar cheese.
One hot meze I’ve had in the past is the Istanbul style shrimp (16); juicy little critters sautéed in butter and basil with a final flourish of boozy rakı. Love them.
As if they weren’t enough to start with, a plate of wild vine leaves (15) and spoon salad made the meze spread as well.
Lamb became the go-to meat on this particular visitation. The colourfully plated hünkar beğendi (29) features tender nubs of lamb stewed with capsicum and tomato, spooned over a delicious charred eggplant concoction. That glorious eggplant seriously stole the limelight.
My core love for dumplings was satisfied with the kayseri mantı (25) – a golden huddle of meat-filled dumplings treading in yoghurt and tomato sauce. This one deserves a gold star.
The final plate of savouries was the yoghurt kebab (28), served a little differently to the more familiar İskender variety. Drenched in tangy tomato sauce, yoghurt and butter, the chunks of tender lamb were coming close to defeating us.
What did defeat us was the künefe (18), a Turkish classic that’s a celebration of shredded kadayıf pastry, soft cheese and butter. To add to the richness it’s surrounded by a moat of creamy custard, with toasted almonds and ground pistachios.
Something that’s still relatively new to Pasha’s is the Bosphorus Style breakfast they put on every Sunday from 9am to 2pm. For $30 you can partake in some a.m. feasting that’s bound to make you skip lunch.
A little cup of Turkish coffee jolts the senses as you scan the edibles and decide what to dig into first. A variety of breads – simit, lavaş and Turkish – fill baskets alongside sour cherry, strawberry and apricot jams. Another dish contains tahini pekmez, a lip-pursing concoction with nutrient-rich grape molasses; whilst another one holds bal kaymak – clotted cream and honey.
And then there are the cheeses. String haloumi, çökelek (air-dried cottage cheese), sheep feta with black sesame, a classic white and traditional Turkish cheddar (kaşar).
Fresh tomato, cucumber, a variety of olives and pickled chilli. Plus two runny eggs cooked in butter and topped with pul biker – flakes of red pepper.
Some pan-fried sucuk – a spicy veal sausage – is served over leaves dressed in a sharp pomegranate reduction and walnuts. In case a little sausage action isn’t enough, a 40 cm long börek appears and joins the feast. Thin, crispy pastry and warm spinach & cheese innards. On top is a delicious coil of pastırma.
A variety of teas is available during the breakfast feasting, and to round it all off you get wedges of melon sprinkled with ground pistachio plus Turkish delight for a little more sugar.
Now that’s one mighty breakfast!