Central Florida has so many good Mediterranean restaurants. Anatolia, Cedar’s and Bosphorous come immediately to mind, each offering vibrant tastes that range from Lebanese to Turkish. Now comes Pasha Taverna & Lounge to add a bit of Moroccan flavor to the mix.
Unfortunately, after two visits I’ve yet to find anything about Pasha that would lure me away from one of the others I mentioned — not the atmosphere, not the service and not the food. To be clear: nothing was unacceptable, but neither was it exceptional.
The best of what I sampled was the falafel, a pita wrap lunch offering that featured a thick and doughy pita crammed full with the deep-fried chickpea balls, tomatoes, lettuce and tzatziki. It was accompanied by a fresh salad with cucumbers and tomatoes and unremarkable sauce. I enjoyed it with a small cup of harrira, a tomatoey soup with chickpeas and plenty of spices.
But a more ambitious entree of lamb tagine was remarkably pedestrian. Tagine refers to the domed vessel the dish is cooked in. It featured a braised lamb shank in a sweet sauce with Moroccan prunes plus a bit of couscous on the side. There was no vibrancy in the dish; it all tasted tired.
My lunch companion’s kofta kabob had better seasoning in the ground beef, which was fashioned into elongated meatballs. But it was all so very dry. And it was far from a bargain at $11.99. (My tagine, at $14.99, would have been more of a deal if it had been better.)
The babaganoush we had shared as a starter was surprisingly bland. The mashed eggplant dip seemed to get most of its flavor from the puddle of olive oil that sat atop it. The dip itself lacked any characteristic tastes.
The vast dining room is cold, both aesthetically and, on a recent chilly day, in terms of temperature. When I first arrived the sound system was playing traditional Moroccan music, which was promptly replaced by Broadway show tunes. Odd.
Service was aloof and unpolished. It’s never a good sign when you’re greeted at the door with a look that seems to say, “Yeah, what do you want?” The greeter didn’t mean to convey an unwelcoming message, I’m fairly certain, but that’s how it came across. There were also inexplicably long waits between courses.
We were visited during our meal by a more gracious man who seemed to be either the owner or manager. He told us that everything is made upon order, including the dips like the hummus and babaganoush. Noble, but they may want to find ways to speed things up just a tad.
Pasha is in a strip of businesses on the corner in front of the Mall at Millenia. It’s fairly accessible, either from the street or even from the mall’s parking lot. You could even walk over for a bite and a break from shopping. But you have to have a reason to make the walk. I’m just not seeing one.
Pasha Taverna & Lounge is at 4104 Millenia Blvd., Orlando. It’s open for lunch and dinner daily. Here is a link to pashaorlando.com. The phone number is 407-730-3222.