Pasha Turkish & Mediterranean Cuisine

A fantastically long list of Turkish delights
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  December 2, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

GOLDEN PLATTER: The mixed kebab platter offers a good way to sample the endless list of entrées. Its beef steak, lamb, and chicken are all recommended.

Pasha Turkish & Mediterranean Cuisine | 669A Mass Ave, Arlington | 781.648.5888 | open Sunday–Wednesday, 11 am–9 pm; and Thursday–Saturday, 11 am–10 pm | DI, MC, VI | Beer and wine | No valet parking | Sidewalk level Access
Even without enormous evidence, the Nadeau family has decided that "Turkish food never lets you down." Louise likes to grab lunch downtown at Boston Kebab House; Maurice prefers Allston's Saray; and Stephanie and her school friends enjoy Brookline Family Restaurant. Now there is newcomer Pasha, a mile or so into Arlington, which is possibly the best of all. It certainly has the longest menu, frequently pausing to boast that a dish is unique to this spot. Not for long, I hope. Not everything is brilliant, but, well, you know, Turkish food never lets you down.

Meals start with cut-up pieces of that wonderfully soft Turkish not-so-flatbread with sesame seeds, and small dips of yogurt and nuts (hidieri); "spicy mashed vegetables" (acili ezme), sort of a tomato-onion chutney with pomegranate; and something sour like cherry vinegar.

These nibbles inspired us to order the mixed appetizer plate ($13.95), which got us lots more acili ezme ($4.95/à la carte) and hidieri ($4.95), as well as brilliant fresh hummus ($4.95) ground with cumin. I didn't like the platter's smokeless babghannouj ($5.95) so well, but did enjoy a spicy tabouleh ($5.25) red with pomegranate and slices of stuffed vine leaves ($5.95) with the real tang of grape leaves. If you order only one cold appetizer, go with the spicy mashed vegetables. We also had fried calamari ($8.95), which were fresh, a little under-fried, and not crisp, but served on lots of salad.

The list of entrées is endless. We covered a key category thoroughly with the mixed kebab platter ($19.95). What jumped out was the beef steak ($13.95/à la carte), though the lamb ($15.95) and chicken ($12.95) were right there. Another key morsel was the grilled meatball ($13.95), well-spiced but not to the point of suggesting sausage. A baby lamb chop ($15.95) was overdone on the mixed platter. The bulgur pilaf, with a meaty flavor, is the pick of the starch options.

A special our night was kadin budu köfte ($13.95), translated as "ladies' thighs meatballs." This is metaphor rather than simile, as the meat comes in four patties, but is tender and veal colored, made of ground beef and lamb. It comes garnished with two small balls of real, medium-grain Turkish rice and salad.

From an odd menu of pastas, one must not overlook the manti ($13.95), lamb cigars wrapped in incredibly soft fresh pasta — softer even than chow fun — in a dual sauce of creamy yogurt and buttery tomato. It isn't pretty, and tends to drip on one's clothes (my clothes, anyway), but is awfully good eating.

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