I’m just getting warmed up here, but my food experiences have been pretty darned interesting so far. The Ecuadorian and Liberian places pretty much rocked my little white world; the Liberian food definitely rocked my little white stomach. I’ve obviously eaten tons of Greek food in my life, but our whole night at Opa Opa! was one heck of a fun experience.
Bosnian food? Eh, not so thrilling.
Along with two of my buddies, I went to a place called Pasha Bistro in Astoria, across the street from the legendary Opa Opa! Since I’m embarrassingly ignorant about the cuisine of the Balkans, I figured that Pasha, one of a small handful of Bosnian restaurants in NYC, would offer a surprise or two. I was mostly wrong.
The biggest source of disappointment was that only a select few dishes on the menu seemed to be uniquely Balkan: Pleskavica (Pasha’s signature Bosnian “burger”), cevapi (Bosnian sausage, made from ground beef and lamb), and a Balkan breakfast sandwich. The rest of the menu consisted of a reasonably pedestrian selection of sandwiches and grilled meats and crepes. Our food was all really good, but not anything all that remarkable. (And yeah, I guess I’m getting spoiled: I expected exoticness, for some silly reason.)
And before I continue, let me just be clear about something: if you’re reading this as a general restaurant review, I have exactly zero complaints about Pasha. The restaurant is an incredibly comfortable little place, with floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides. There was only one server working there, but she was friendly and knowledgeable and efficient. All of the food was great, from a price and quality viewpoint. So if I sound less than enthusiastic, please don’t take it to mean that I disliked the restaurant itself.
Let’s start with the pleskavica (usually referred to in English as a “Bosnian burger”). There are a bunch of glowing reviews of this particular burger on yelp, and the reviews are completely appropriate. Start with two monstrous, round pieces of grilled whole wheat flatbread, both of which are as big as a standard dinner plate. Add some hummus, some lettuce and tomato and chopped onion, and a huge, flat piece of grilled lamb sausage, also as large as a standard dinner plate. On the side, there’s a nice little bowl of sour cream and ayvar (often spelled ajvar or aijvar), which is a sweetish red pepper condiment.
The pleskavica is the sort of thing that will get you pretty excited if you’re outrageously hungry, and I would definitely stop by for one of them if I’m Astoria and don’t particularly feel like eating Greek food. But it’s not worth a special trip, in my humble opinion.
(On a side note, the pleskavica definitely did not deserve the abuse heaped on it by another NYC food blogger, who referred to it as the “carnivorous equivalent of particle board” and “a pita-encased buffalo chip.” Hilarious, but wrong.)
The other two entrees were similarly tasty, but also unspectacular.
I ordered a Mediterranean breakfast sandwich, which consisted of egg, lettuce, onion, tomato, hummus, and a sprinkling of cheese, all served on Pasha’s thick, meaty pita. We talked Ryan into eating a mixed kabob platter, which featured huge chunks of grilled chicken, lamb, cevapi (Balkan lamb sausage), and sudzuk (beef sausage). Everything was great. None of it deserves a long, drawn-out story.
Bottom line: if you’re in the area and you don’t feel like indulging in the mayhem of, say, Opa Opa!, Pasha is a great spot for a casual meal. Pasha is perfectly safe for anybody who has a phobia of ethnic food, or for anybody who just wants a solid meal. It just isn’t too thrilling for somebody who has recently been spoiled by Greek and Liberian hospitality.
Pasha Cafe & Grill
28-44 31st Street, Astoria
Subway: 30th Ave. station (N, W trains)