We walked to the restaurant from home and arrived in time for our 7.30pm booking. As I entered the restaurant, I couldn't help but feel a sense of exoticness - Turkish furnishings (including beautiful Turkish tiles in traditional Iznik and Arabic patterns) and ornaments filled the interior of the restaurant and soft folk music can be heard playing in the background. We were seated at a corner table by the back wall which gave us a good view of the guests in the restaurant. "Should we be crossing our legs?" asked Jono, trying to get comfortable on his cushioned seat, working out how best to place his legs under the low table. Hmm, I actually don't know - I've never been to a Turkish restaurant and I'm not sure what their dining etiquettes are. I suppose we could stretch our legs under the table since no one is sitting directly opposite us...
View from our corner table at Pasha's Restaurant on King St in Newtown
The restaurant is beautifully decorated with various Turkish ornaments and furnishings
I had read several online reviews of the restaurant earlier today and most of them recommended the Sultan's Banquet as it was best value for money. For $35 per person, the Sultan's Banquet is a set menu which included a selection of dips, flavoured eggplant, sliced zucchini with yoghurt, pomegranate salad, a mixed grill of lamb and chicken sis and meatballs, as well as sweets with coffee or tea. Sounded quite similar to a 3-course set dinner to me though $35 seemed a bit cheap...small servings, maybe?? We decided to go ahead and ordered a Sultan's Banquet each (there was no mention on the menu of the minimum heads per table required to order this - I assumed you can order for just 1 person too), then settled back into our seats, opening up the bottle of red wine we brought along. "This is nice," I said to Jono, taking in the ambience as I sipped my wine. To be honest, both Jono and I didn't expect the restaurant to be so lovely inside - from the street, the place looked dimly lit and dark, reminding me of a cave and somehow gave the impression that it was very warm inside. We were pleasantly surprised that it was nothing like we thought - a cool continuous breeze blew from the air-conditioner and the subtle lighting made the place quite cosy and romantic.
Our entrees arrived shortly and oh my god, there was SO much food - I didn't know where to start! Instead of serving us two separate portions, our entrees were made enough for two people. The sliced zucchini, grilled and served with natural herbed yoghurt was just divine, and so was the flavoured eggplant dish. The selection of dips (homemade hummus, fine chopped grilled eggplant salad, Turkish cacik, chargrilled red capsicum dip, grated carrot and Anatolian dip) came with a basket of warm Turkish bread - mmm, the dips and bread were lovely! Jono and I were debating what the yummy orange-coloured dip was made of, him guessing it was a variation of scrambled eggs while I thought it had a curd-like texture and guessed it was some kind of dip with a yoghurt base. Well, we had better ask our friendly waitress what it is when she returns or we'll be guessing all night! We also had a bowl of pomegranate salad which was passable - it was good but didn't have enough pomegranates for it to be worthy of such name.
Our entree for the Sultan's Banquet: selection of dips, flavoured eggplant, sliced zucchini with yoghurt and pomegranate salad
We still had quite a lot of dips remaining after we finished most of the other entrees so requested for another basket of bread (this was at no additional cost). Oh, and we found out what the orange-coloured dip was made of - I was right, it's yoghurt! I can see why Jono thought it might be scrambled eggs (it does look like it) but it didn't have the egg smell and texture. Emptied plates were cleared off our table and replaced with a platter of mixed grill - lamb and chicken sis (chargrilled thick carved meats on skewers marinated with pungent Turkish spices) and meatballs (chargrilled premium beef mince flavoured with spices and fresh herbs shaped into oval balls), served with rice pilaf. We had a skewer of the sis and meatball each, the grilled meats juicy and tender, so mouth-wateringly full of flavour. And we LOVE the rice pilaf that had almonds and raisins in it - wished we could have more!
Mixed grill of lamb sis, chicken sis, and meatballs served with almond rice
Whilst enjoying our mixed grill, the music suddenly became quite loud, attracting a lot of attention. A beautiful female belly dancer came twirling into the middle of the dining area, showing off her graceful moves to the upbeat music. Wow, those body isolation moves she performed were done so well! Damn, wished I could do that - I did some belly dancing lessons in the past but no way am I anywhere near such level. How does she do that tummy ripple?? As part of the evening's entertainment, the belly dancer invited a few guests to join her on the floor. One young chap was particularly eager to take on the challenge, bewildering the belly dancer with his more Polynesian dance style moves - it was funny watching their dance showdown. I got it on video:
Several others tried their best to follow the dancer's moves and all received applause for their participation from the crowd. One thing I noticed was that the belly dancer was not Turkish or Middle Eastern decent. "Hmm, I think she's actually a Brazilian," I said to Jono. Turkish or not, I'm sure the crowd was quite mesmerised by her good looks and moves :) Pity the dancing only lasted about 15 minutes - Jono and I were hoping the dancer would perform another set but she never came back...
Ok, getting the second bread basket was probably a bad choice :/ By the time we finished our main, we could hardly eat much of the remaining dips and bread. I'm feeling quite full! We gestured to one of the waitresses and told her we were ready for our dessert. "Sure, would you like coffee or tea?" she asked. Since neither of us wanted a caffeinated drink, we settled for a Turkish Apple Tea for me and a Turkish Orange Tea for Jono. Our hot teas arrived with a small plate of sweets, two pieces of lokum (Turkish delight) and baklava respectively, sprinkled with crushed pistachios. You know, I've always thought baklava to be something savoury (I often seen them sold in kebabs shops, next to the falafel) but it turned out to be a typical Turkish dessert made of layers of nuts and spices in flaky pastry, combined with a honey and lemon flavoured syrup. Yum! Though the desserts were small pieces, it was just right - too much of them would probably make me feel quite sick as they are very sweet. The tea themselves were fairly average. "Tastes like warmed up Raro Sweet Navel Orange - try it," said Jono, rather unimpressed with his Orange Tea. Now, if you grew up in NZ, you would know what Jono was referring to. Raro is a powdered drink from NZ fortified with vitamin C and though I didn't grow up in NZ, I have tried the drink. I took a sip of Jono's tea - it sure tasted like warm Raro alright. Is this how Turkish orange tea is meant to taste? I guess I was expecting more real fruit flavour than this rather artificial taste. My apple tea was no better, much like warm Fresh Up apple juice (Fresh Up is a well-known fruit juice brand in NZ).
Dessert of orange and apple teas with Turkish Delight and Baklava
Cost us a total of $55.50 (includes $2 per person corkage fee and the 25% off Entertainment Book voucher) which worked out pretty cheap for the dinner. Even if the salad and teas weren't so great (and the belly dancing performance was too short), overall, the food and service was excellent. I definitely recommend you try Pasha's Restaurant - you'll enjoy the experience :)