Pasha is exactly what I had in mind when I began EATabetical.
Walking into Pasha Hotel in Camberwell, I felt as if I had temporarily exited London and entered some unknown Central Asian territory. Really I was just wandering down a tatty red carpet in a somewhat skeevy hotel passing by empty Turkish massage rooms and creepy traditionally dressed Kazakh/Kyrgyz/whoknowswhat mannequins…but it was definitely unfamiliar– and in a good way!
I’d like to say I had found this bizarre hotel/restaurant on my own, but alas, Groupon led me here. I purchased a £16 Groupon for “Three Courses of Turkish Specialties for Two.” Turkish? Well, upon further research I found out that Pasha has two outlets- a Turkish restaurant in Wapping and the Kyrgyz Kazakh House in Camberwell.
The interior felt quite simliar to some of the Xinjiang restaurants Pete and I enjoyed so much in China, without the shirtless Uighur men in sequined fedoras, of course. Unfortunately my Groupon wasn’t valid on weekends, when live dancing occurs at Kyrgyz Kazakh House!
In fact, my Groupon wasn’t valid at all. It expired August 31st, but they let me use it anyway- the first example of the phenomenal service that continued throughout the evening.
We started our meal with complimentary borsok, the national bread of Kazakhstan, and hummus. Basically, borsok is like little bite-sized pieces of unsweetened donuts. Very similar youtiao, a Chinese breakfast food. For appetizers, we selected funchoza and kibbeh. I can’t find the exact origin of funchoza, a Central Asian noodle salad, and kibbeh (balls formed from bulghar wheat and stuffed with minced lamb) seems to be decidedly Middle Eastern (the menu was not limited to strictly Kazakh/Kyrgyz food.) Nonetheless, both dishes were very tasty.
We also sampled manti, a dish found in both Kazakh and Kyrgyz cuisine. In Kazakhstan, the manti filling is commonly horsemeat, but since that wasn’t an option, we went for lamb. It was basically a big dumpling, similar to Russian pelmeni. I liked it a lot, since I’ve never met dumpling (or anything served with sour cream and hot sauce) that I didn’t enjoy.
For my main, I selected beshbarmak, the national dish of Kyrgyztstan (how many people can say they’ve had the national dish of Kyrgyzstan?!) Beshbarmak is a hearty but pretty tasteless dish of homemade noodles topped with diced lamb and a little bit of broth. Despite lacking in any real flavor, the noodles were really good. Beshbarmak is eaten ceremoniously and with one’s hands, but I unfortunately didn’t know this at the time.
Pete, unsurprisingly, ordered a kebab, a move that (stupidly) angered me at first because it didn’t seem very adventurous. But when his “kebab” was served lamb-chop style with roasted apples, I realized that all kebabs are not created equal and that Pete could become EATabetical’s very own kebab-connessiour, an expert of all the variations of kebabs all over the world.
Both desserts were Turkish (all the dessert items were), but delicious. Pete went for baklava while I tried irmik helvasi, a delllllicious concotion of semolina, butter, sugar, and pine nuts, served with ice-cream.
I’d love to find more Pasha-type gems in London- restaurants that deliver good service, consistent, interesting food, and most of all, are full of surprises! And I’ll definitely go back for the dancing.
Pasha Kazakh/Kyrgyz House