Now, I don’t often to up North (or anywhere North of Alabang) but when I do I swing for the fences! Mediterranean cuisine is sorely lacking in the Philippines, as it is not a popular cuisine in the Filipino mind, and we just don’t get enough of it. This is a shame, because there are some really good flavors in that region of the world.
We used to have Cyma, which died a horrible death, and we still have Cafe Mediterranean, but the latter always felt like half-baked Mediterranean. Prince of Jaipur never really caught on. Well, we have tons of Italian joints, but not too many of them are really any good. And so much Filipinized Shawarma that I don’t even know where to begin.
So into this mess comes Pasha, a restaurant recommended to me by GirlyGeek.ph‘s Irene. And I must say, I think I have finally found bliss while washing along the Aegean Sea.
I had the great fortune of being invited to eat at Pasha, a restaurant along Heneral Luna street in Makati. It’s a block away from Century Mall. It’s an al fresco affair and you can smoke shisha while you’re lounging in its plush interiors. The hardest part was finding parking; I ended up parking a Century Mall and walking the short distance to Pasha.
We were given the royal treatment just like the Emperor of the Ottoman Empire might have in his royal kitchen! We got several dishes served, and I have to say it’s amazing because I loved each and everyone one!
Let’s start with the star of the show, Iskende Kebab.
This dish is named after Alexander the Great, the Macedonian King who conquered all of the “known” world (what they knew anyway) at the time. Iskander is the Greek name for Alexander, in Turkish it’s Iskende.
This is an amazing dish with slices of argos beef and lamb in varying cuts and marinations, on a rich tomato sauce and garlic yogurt dribbled over it. However, the most amazing secret of this dish is the luscious pita bread at the bottom; the pita is normally great as it is but this pita is drenched in the butter and sauce of the dish, steeped in and absorbing that rich savory flavor.
I am not exaggerating when I say that that pita was the most delicious thing I ate that evening. It was amazing.
This is a cuisine-defining dish. I recommend anyone who can to try it, it’s really that good. The pita at the bottom is godly, the meats were succulent and mouth-watering, and well-flavored. It’s great for longing for strong, bold flavors. You must try it at least once in your life!
Unfortunatley this dish is not on Pasha’s menu. It’s a special dish that is only brought out on special occasions, like if your company booked the restaurant for a party. Unfortunately it’s not always available, but if you can, it’s a must try.
Next up is the famous eggplant dish, Mussaka.
Mussaka is one of my favorite Greek dishes. I like to call it Eggplant Lasagna, because that’s basically what it is — layers of pasta with eggplant, tomatoes, onions, ground meat and bechamel sauce on top. If you haven’t tried it, it’s very, very good. Just as satisfying as Italian lasagna, but with that extra taste of eggplant.
I am not even a fan of eggplant, and I like Mussaka. The Turkish version apparently does away with the pasta layers and instead serves it as is, and it generally goes with a rice pilaf or some pita bread. I heard that the Turkish version has no bechamel, but this one does.
Not that I’m complaining — I adore bechamel sauce and am always happy to have it in my pasta. This mussaka is suitably creamy and rich in flavor, with several different spices (tastes like black pepper, paprika) and a very tasty ground meat. I swear, they are masters at marinating meats here in this restaurant!
Also on the menu is Lamb Shank.
Long a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, lamb is known for its strong gamey flavor, not as bad as venison, but certainly “wilder” than beef or pork. Somehow, they chefs here in Pasha managed to reduce that so I didn’t really notice it. Instead, I noticed the wonderfully soft and tender meat that just melts off the bones.
It’s like how Rack’s prepares their ribs, but this one is even softer than that. I don’t know how they got that texture, probably a lot of boiling, but the meat still tastes very savory, with a well-marinated, juicy flavor. There was a lot more to the evening’s dinner so I refrained from eating the vegetables, as I needed to save space. But the lamb was very, very good.
We also had a specialty from Argos Minibar, the Argos Meatballs.
On the other hand, these meatballs are pure beef. And they really keep me happy. They’re served with peppers, tomatoes, humus, salsa, pita and a rice-like dish that I forget. However, I loved this dish a lot because it gave a lot of variety.
I ate the meat with the peppers, getting some spice, then with some humus, draining out the taste and settling for something earthy, then with some salsa for a refreshing taste, all the while having bites of pita. I never tired of alternating the different components of this dish, and I like that. I love dishes that have many parts to it. This is one such dish.
In addition we had Falafels.
A falafel is like a meatball, but instead is made out of ground garbanzo beans (or chick peas, as you will). I am not a big bean fan but eating them in falafel form is always a pleasure. I much preferred these falafels to the ones I had at Cafe Mediterranean. These have a fresher, crisper texture that upon biting crumble with that sweet crispness that gives way to the mushy bean mass beneath.
It has a very herby taste and goes great with the humus and with the mutabal, which I’ll be discussing below.
Yes, this Mutabal.
Mutabal is a dish very similar to Baba Ghanoush, but instead of being made with molasses and tomatoes it’s a paste made with yoghurt and garlic. Both still have ground eggplant at its core, which gives it that distinct smoky taste. It’s quite sour and you can really taste the garlic; it’s like the garlic sauce you put on a shawarma, except it has a more mayonaise-like constistency and I can taste the tarty sourness.
You know what I love about Turkish food? They make eggplant taste great. I hate eggplants when I eat them at home, tortang talong style. But here in Mussaka and Mutabal, eggplant becomes a wonderful ingredient that isn’t itchy and doesn’t have that disgusting mushy texture. Kudos to the Turks.
This dish isn’t something I eat as is, but it goes great with pretty much everything else on the table like a sauce.
One thing about our table, we were loaded with Pita Bread.
As a Turkish restaurant, almost every viand came with pita bread. I love pita bread, but we had tons of it on the table! Not as bad as the metric ton of potatoes you get when you eat at Burgoo’s, but we still had more pita than we knew what to do with.
I also ended up not eating too much of this pita, because I was so in love with the sauced-up pita from the Iskander Kebab that I pretty much ignored the “normal” pita. Still, I ate some bites. It’s not like your usual pita bread, this one feels more like a quesadilla’s cuts than the thick, pita I am used to (which is similar to Indian Roti). Pretty nice touch.
Here’s my favorite surprise for the evening. It’s called Ayran.
Ayran is a traditional Turkish drink. It might actually even be called the National Drink of Turkey. It’s so simple, yet so awesome — yoghurt mixed with water, ice and salt. But it’s so refreshing. There’s a beauty to simplicity. This was so good, I ordered two.
After eating the rich Iskender doner kebabs or the lamb shanks, one might feel offput by their richness. But with a whiff of ayran you feel refrehed and your palate feels ready for more. The cool watery goodness cleanses your palate as the sourness tickles your tongue, making you want to eat more.
I will forever be on the lookout for chances to drink more Ayran at Turkish restaurants. The good thing is, it’s very easy to prepare. I can probably make it at home after buying a tub of Greek Yoghurt.
This is our only dessert for the evening: Baklava.
And now, for the dessert! I love dessert. We didn’t have much, but I after all we ate I still had room for dessert. This little pastry is called a baklava. It’s small crisp layers of crust folded over a sweet, tasty mix of ground pistachio nuts drenched in a sugary syrup. It’s delicious!
It has that crispness that is reminiscent of a croissant, but with a fruit tart like interior that is slightly milky but mostly sugary and nutty. The pistachio is an awesome ingredient and it’s what really characterizes this dish. I loved it. I wish I could have more!
I was eating here with Wazzup.ph‘s Ted. What not many of Ted’s readers know is that he spent a long time in the Middle East with his wife, whose siblings married Egyptians. He knows Turkish cuisine inside out, and he can attest that the baklava here reminded him of his days there.
That’s pretty much the king’s menu we had. As a disclaimer, I would like to note that we were invited here by the owners to try out there cuisine. We were not expected to write a review, but I will do it anway because I’m the eMuncher!
I received no compensation for this review, other than the opportunity to sample their food. And we were given the royal treatment in doing so; while I always strive to be objective in my reviews, the truth is that your perception and enjoyment of your meal is greatly, greatly affected by the company, by the ambiance, and how good a mood you were in while eating. And we were very happy because of the great conversation the owner, Fiore and her husband, gave us regarding Turkish culture and cuisine, and just enjoying the evening as friends.
So take that as you will, but know that my opinions were not affected by anything other than the enjoyment of the meal at hand.
A big thank you to Fiore and her business partners, who put up Pasha here at Heneral Luna. As a quick blurb, they also own Cafe Royal and Royal Club in the same building, which is a sort of “3-in-1” deal for tourists coming by. As Turkish cuisine is not exactly popular in the Philippines, most of their clientele are foreigners longing for a taste of home, and this was the same for the Club as well as the Cafe.
We wish them luck and good fortune, as it would be a shame to lose these powerful flavors that bring Turkey into Manila. If you are interested at all in Turkish or Medieterranean cuisine, I strongly urge you to try out Pasha here in Makati, at Heneral Luna street. Argos Minibar also shares the same kitchen nearby at P. Burgos.
I’ll be back to try out Cafe Royal next time….