Pasha has a fine selection of Turkish wines among a solid worldwide list. Although wines from an Islamic country seem unlikely, Turkish wine has both an ancient history and a newer history that goes back to the modernizing regimes of the early 20th century. We went for the most expensive red: Kavaklidere (turkey's largest winery) Kalecik Karasi (that's the grape variety), a $49.95 wine from the hot year of 2005. What the heck? If you're having your first bottle of Turkish wine, it might as well be the best they make. Was 2005 as good in Turkey as it was in Bordeaux? I don't happen to carry a Turkish vintage card. I can say with confidence, though, that this bottle deserves a slight chill. At American room temperature, it has a terrific cherry aroma, but, perhaps with a lot of oak aging, is a rather light wine with a little too much alcohol to serve warm.
Turkish coffee ($2.95), served in a cup smaller than some shot glasses, was intense and delicious. Turkish tea ($1), in a small but tall glass as my Romanian aunts used to drink it, was excellent; as was apple-flavored tea ($1), presented similarly. (Political note: reconciliation is in the air. When we asked our server where to get Turkish tea for home use, she suggested the Armenian groceries in Watertown.)
Despite long histories of tea and coffee drinking, Turkey does not have the sweetest desserts on the planet. Baked rice pudding ($3.95) is one of the best around, likewise the double piece of baklava ($4.95). Kazandibi ($3.95), a stodgy caramel pudding in my past experience, was better here, but not as good as the rice pudding.
The room has been hung with fine fabrics and good wall paintings; one can hardly detect that this space formerly housed a Turkish-owned sushi bar! A little blond wood and some wave-pattern stucco might be remnants of that truly odd piece of restaurant history. Why would someone who eats manti and baklava at home want to operate a sushi bar? It would be like a Viennese pastry chef running a fish and chipper in Belfast. Or a Chinese master chef investing in a string of Kansas pizza parlors.
The servers are clad in red satin vests with gold embroidery; the background music — sounds like a romantic violin concerto — is Sufi. The plasma TV doesn't have American sports; it has a looped Turkish tourist video with panoramic shots of beaches — no focus on individual bathers. It takes an old-fashioned attitude to sustain dishes like "ladies' thighs meatballs."
Somewhere in a back room, a crate of chopsticks is gathering dust.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.