A breezy and clear Sunday afternoon. Therefore I wanted to take a break from a bit of leftover work and sit outside somewhere and have some kebabs and strong black Turkish tea. After taking a walk that led me past Pasha on Fifth the other night, I had a memory of a new restaurant that seemed to fill that need- it was busy and seemed to have the right sort of joss. After arriving there today in the revealing glare of daylight, my instincts were quick to point me out the door, but having caught the eye of one of the owners (rather, his eyes corralling mine into submission) we were ushered to an almost 45 degree-sloped sidewalk table without a peep of protest.
I often wonder how these restaurant situations happen in cities all over the world- an "ethnic" restaurant with a grudge against its busier neighbors, undertaking a campaign of excess "Grand Opening" signage, digital scrolling readouts, bizarre lighting, and forced festive atmosphere with the goal to net unsuspecting customers with sincere hopes that they might prefer kofteh kebab to their intended Snickers pancakes (the Hash House almost next door), rather good food, simply prepared? I am reasonably certain that these issues are not a matter of culture, just bad business sense- Shahrzad in Westwood comes to mind as the antipode here. I actually heard the owner of Pasha say to a passing couple who had just finished gorging a-go-go that "the wait is thirty minutes there. You should have maybe eaten here." I feel that there is a serious need for excellent Turkish-Persian-Maghrebi-pan-Mediterrenian-Greek-Bulgarian-etcetera cuisine in San Diego that does not require me to drive all that far and park in a strip mall (easy, Hounds, I just mean not always) when I want a charred tomato with my cutlet. Pasha may have had a chance, but where is Gordon Ramsay when you need him? On the menu they have a tripe soup, but when I asked about it the attentive waiter said that they don't really have it because nobody orders it and they have to just throw it away. Since tripe is a food I enjoy but does indeed straddle the digestive barrier, it must be exceedingly clean to avoid that certain taste. It seems to me that people might not be ordering it because, well, the restaurant itself is not exactly dirty, but just not all that clean. I almost wanted to undertake an intervention of simplification for these guys- it seemed almost as if they are insisting on failure. The food I had was unremarkable- almost limpid and Telma-brand chicken cube flavored lentil soup, store-bought pita toasted to tortilla-chip texture, tomato-onion-cucumber puree that was gazpacho-Lite, and a cold precooked-kebab plate with yesterday's microwaved rice and raw onion salad.
Would it be too much (risqué ambition?) to offer just one take on a beef, chicken, great lakes whitefish and veggie kebab perfectly cooked to order with some homemade pita and a simple cuke salad? Add a bit of raki (I know, a liquor license is pricey), a few nice beers and wine (perhaps a bit of carpentry in place of the Chinese banquet hall tables and chairs) and voilá! the Mediterranean Cafe Chloé! That and a handful of accompaniments would do the trick and would make me a regular.
I'd recommend against going to Pasha, but I think the place will resolve itself before you ever have the chance.
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