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A Night with the Pasha

by Elaine Sosa

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While a pasha refers to the governor of a city or province in Morocco, in San Francisco it best describes Jalal Takesh, the amiable owner of Pasha restaurant, a traditional and elegant Moroccan eatery in the heart of the city. A group of friends accompanied me on a recent visit to Pasha, and to say the mood was festive is an understatement. A belly dancer (pregnant, no less!) appeared before we had even ordered our meal and proceeded to enchant us with her rhythmic swaying and athletic grace. Her prop, a live snake, wasn't quite as charming, but maybe that's because the snake was mere feet from our table. In short order, half the restaurant was up on the stage, gyrating with the dancer and having a ball. My hungry gang of six finally ordered "A Royal Feast" and anxiously awaited the real performance.

Our meal began with a series of small plates, among them hummus, a pleasing chick-pea puree seasoned with sesame paste, falafel (fried patties of crushed beans) and a tabbouleh salad flavored with parsley and cracked wheat. Standouts among these plates were the bisteeya, a wonderful rendition of the classic savory/sweet pie and piyaz, Mediterranean white beans in a slightly tangy marinade. The bulk of our feast was made up of heartier dishes, six in all, including lamb with honey, almonds and raisins as well as chicken with honey, onions, raisins and sesame seeds and a sublime hare with paprika, tomatoes and onions. The traditional chicken with pickled lemon and olives was also served, as was a couscous topped with a medley of vegetables which were seasoned with a cumin cayenne sauce. By the time glasses of mint tea arrived, we were ready for bed, sated as can be.

Dining Moroccan-style is a feast for the senses, and at Pasha, the food is well worth your while, especially if you're in a party mood. Pasha, 1516 Broadway, San Francisco (415) 885-4477. Dinner only; "A Royal Feast" is $26 per person, minimum two persons.

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