In my perpetual quest for discovering new restaurants offering ethnic cuisine, I spotted Pasha Taverna & Lounge on Urbanspoon, recently reviewed by Orlando Weekly. I eagerly modified my dining plans to visit this “Moroccan” restaurant, newly opened in the Mall of Millennia vicinity.
Pasha Taverna is located on Millennia blvd, stone’s throw before the entrance to the Mall. It is easily visible when you turn right on Millennia from Conroy. Prime location though parking on busy days might be an issue. The lit banner said “Pasha Taverna & Lounge, Mediterranean Restaurant”. My first thought was oh no! Does Orlando need yet another restaurant lacking authenticity and individuality by offering an assortment of dishes ranging from the Lebanon to Morocco? I am pleased to announce I couldn’t be further astray from what I was going to encounter.
One walks in to an open space, decorated tastefully with beautiful stained glass lights and vivid murals on the wall. The combination of low-level seating arrangements and soft light creates a rather calm yet enchanting ambiance.
The menu offers North African and Mediterranean dishes, some common to Orlando, while other’s not easily accessible to restaurant cooking. I ordered Hummus, Grape Leaves, and Pastilla to commence our eating adventure. With Brugal Cocktail list displayed on each table, I chose a Mojito. An odd choice at a Mediterranean place but hey, it was listed as a ‘special’.
My $5 dollar Mojito was fresh, refreshing, and surprisingly not sweet, with a generous dose of Rum. Nicely done! I had few minutes to absorb the atmosphere while waiting for our appetizers. Pasha’s atmosphere is casual yet inviting. There was something unique about this restaurant I couldn’t quite put a finger on it.
Without further adieu let’s talk food. One could easily ascertain the Hummus was made in-house with it’s lightness and delicate flavoring unlike my previous experiences where it is a blob of chickpea, dense with no distinct taste. What caught my attention was the pita bread. It was ultra light, warm, and fluffy. I was totally digging it!
The Chicken Pastilla, a baked pastry crisscrossed with cinnamon and powdered sugar looked like dessert, did I order from the dessert menu by mistake? This savory dish was filled with a mixture of chicken, almond, & spices. It was the perfect blend of sweet and savory, beautifully done.
The Grape Leaves on the other hand were quite a disappointment. Lacking in all flavors, it was simply put a mass of rice, encased in heavily pickled leaf. The staff informed me they had someone prepare it especially for them. Well, I for one might want to revisit that vendor?
For our main course, we shared the Gyro Wrap and Chicken Tagine. It was a tough decision since they do have the elusive Couscous on the menu too.
The beef and lamb meat was wrapped in the same pita bread they had served earlier with the hummus. The thin sliced generous portions of succulent beef and lamb were beautifully marinated with a hint of lemon, and the fresh tatzaki sauce was seasoned perfectly. Outside of NY, this by far is the tastiest gyro I have had the pleasure to relish. And I might add for $6.99, it is quite a steal. All wraps are served with rice, salad, or French fries. For the spice lovers, they even make Harissa (African hot chili sauce).
The Chicken Tagine – tender chicken smothered in a flavorful saffron sauce with Moroccan olives and spices was another of my favorites. The dish not only had flavor, but tasted like one’s Moroccan grandmother whipped it up with a hearty portion of our love.
I loved the house made rice too. Each strand of rice was cooked al dente with a pleasant aroma of cinnamon and powdered cloves. I could eat just the rice by itself.
In my humble opinion, the only glitch of the entire evening might be the service. The restaurant’s name as per their website alludes to being treated like a “true pasha”, an honor given only to the highest ranking persons with polished & sophisticated tastes. Our server was polite, however not as welcoming as one should be, considering this was my first time dining a Pasha Taverna.
If it wasn’t for the flat screen TVs mounted on the walls on playing American shows; the soft colored glow of the exquisite stained glass lamps, playful world music playing in the background, cozy seating arrangements, and most importantly the tantalizing flavors of the Mediterranean belt; I could easily imagine myself walking the streets of Morocco, transforming my ordinary evening into an exotic dining adventure.
One doesn’t have to travel far; Pasha Taverna & Lounge brings the Exotic to you right here in Orlando. They even have live entertainment Thursdays – Saturdays and daily happy hours specials at the bar. Go Party!!
They are located at 1404 Millenia Blvd, 407-730-3222.