I guess there are so many names to go around. I mean you can’t go to any most towns without finding a sports bar named the Locker Room or a strip bar with some precious or semi-precious metal in the name (Brass Rail, Solid Gold etc). Then again, I suppose those would be a little more appealing than having pint at Jock Strap or a rye and coke at the Labia Lounge. That said, there can be mast confusion and controversy when names bare too close to each other. I would certainly hate to get the Verve confused with the Verve pipe if Scott asked me who wrote the song Bittersweet Symphony at question 10 on HQ. The band Bush was forced to release their first album in Canada under the name Bush X because there was a 70’s band in Canada with the same name. After lawyers got involved, a donation to the Starlight Foundation and the Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund. cleared things up with allowed the band to simply call themselves Bush (which could also be a name of the aforementioned establishments I suppose).
Fat Pasha is one of a number of restaurants under the Rose banner and should not be confused with Pasha in the Thorncliffe area. The former is located a short walk from the Dupont subway station and focuses on middle eastern fare or in their words “Good Jew Food”. It’s a tight, darkish and dingy space characteristic of many casual eateries around town. I enjoyed being seated at a table facing the small and busy kitchen. What I enjoyed less was the scattered service that followed. Once we were seated, it seemed we were more spectators than patrons. It took a while to order and we had to call them over a couple of times over the course of the night to keep things moving along.
The cocktail list is small and authentic but a bit dainty with accents such as plum wine, hibiscus and apricot brandy. I opted for a bourbon-based “Make a Mint” which the waiter advised was a “sipping” drink. I would have considered a pint but was a little turned off by double digit price tag for a Beau’s Lug Tread. It was smooth and nicely balanced but needed to be nursed to make it through the first course which was the salatim; a plate of salads, pickles, falafel and pita for $29. It was an excellent way to indulge in the multiple smoky and spicy flavors the region has to offer. In particular the falafel was fragrant and delicious.
It’s no secret that the key to success in the restaurant biz is a signature dish that every blogger, critic or reviewer HAS to have. In this case it’s the roasted cauliflower. Even Maclean’s magazine shared the secret to the dish on it’s youtube page. It also doesn’t hurt when that item has some type of controversy attached to it. Heads spun a few years back when cauliflower rocketed to prices similar to natural vanilla or previously mentioned precious metals. This lead to social media outcries suggesting the mainstay might be an endangered species and made me wonder if Dan McTeague might start up “Cauliflower Buddy” to give us current cauliflower prices from various grocery stores across the GTA. Since them, it seems cauliflower prices have stabilized and the halloumi, tahini, pomegranate seeds and pine nuts would continue to have a home. With all the fanfare I expected to taste like manna from heaven itself. It was certainly good but I haven’t stayed up at night obsessing about it since. It is beautifully presented, however, and reminded me a bit of an edible arrangement- hipster style.
The last dish was the lamb shawarma ($30). It wouldn’t have been my first choice given my general dislike for lamb but I lost the rock, paper, scissors battle and promised myself I wouldn’t let it bias my opinion of the dish in general. Here’s the thing…it was a $30 shawarma. I live in London, Ontario and frequent Windsor and Detroit often where there is a huge Lebanese influence and some of the best shawarma on the continent at a fraction of the price. I quite enjoyed the apricot amba but not enough to justify three John A. Macdonalds/Viola Desmonds.
Fat Pasha is a fitting name for this Dupont staple. You can stuff your face at will with an array of flavours from the middle east provided you have a rather fat wallet. I don’t mind a restaurant’s attempt to elevate ethnic food to a new level but I think it needs to involve more than an apricot amba as an accent. In my neck of the woods, I’m used to $7 shawarmas bursting with pickled turnips, hot sauce, tahini and a pile of toum which often come with a side of seasoned rice or fries. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not fully equating hipster bar in Toronto with a mom and pop shop in London but i would be remiss if I didn’t assess the relative value to some degree. In the end, cramped quarters, sippy cocktails, medicore service and a big price tag trumped pretty cruciferous creations. Perhaps the other Pasha might be a little less pretty but also a little less fat.