Sunday, 22 March 2015

Pazar Food Collective, Canterbury

At the midst of the busy multi-lane Canterbury Road lies a bustling Pazar Food Collective, a Mexican-Turkish fusion joint. It's loud, there's lots of people, even some standing out the front either waiting for a table or their takeaway. The atmosphere screams "this is the hottest restaurant to be on a Friday night", my partner and I listen though we're wishing we had more people with us since everyone's sharing colourful platefuls of food and all their ten fingers are in use. 

Pazar has an interesting ordering system where you are given their menu and a permanent marker. Once you have decided what you'd like, you colour the number of circles (they're probably meant to be plates) you'd like and hand it over to the waitstaff. I guess it's as self-serve of a system as you can get besides having those touch screen menus at certain Japanese restaurants. Perhaps it's encouraging conversation and engagement around the table as you have to make decisions as a group (there's something about markers that make you think the final answer you mark is in fact "permanent") but I think I prefer interacting with the waiters as you get to gage what their favourites are or what's the most popular dish. 

Another thing to note, this restaurant is cash only. Not my preferred method of payment considering the ease of PayPass and online bank transfers these days, no one really carries cash with them anymore. But I guess since the venue is designed to accommodate large groups of people, it could be easier to split the bill. 

But don't fret if you forget, there is an ATM towards the back of the restaurant, which of course makes us wonder though - does this mean they profit from every one of those cash withdrawal transaction fees?

Beetroot dip, agave walnuts, sheep's feta, $8.00
This is possibly one of the best dips I've had. The beetroot hasn't been pureed but chopped finely and mixed with just enough yoghurt to produce a vibrant fuscia chunky dip. The sheep's feta mellows down the sweetness of the beetroot and gives it seasoning and extra flavour. The candied agave walnuts are crunchy, sticky and sweet, playing along nicely with the rest of the dip. It's not at all heavy and the warm oiled Turkish bread makes an incredible start to the night.

Pide - Mushroom, sage, garlic, haloumi, $20.00
The pide is tastey, has all the ingredients as it reads, mushroom, sage, garlic and haloumi. It all works together to keep the inside moist and flavourful. But I wouldn't say anything really stands out. The haloumi has melted, creating a stretchy stringy filling which isn't how we commonly see this type of cheese cooked. The portion isn't huge so it feels like the another entree more than anything. We both enjoy it but I wouldn't really order it again..

Harissa wood roast chilli chicken, $28.00

Not what what you expect when you read 'Harissa wood roast chilli chicken' on the menu right? We sat there a little confused when our 'chicken' came out. I had a completely different idea of what we were going to get that evening, basically what it said on the menu, a chicken (or even parts of a chicken). Instead we got an expensive kebab which mostly consisted of pickled chilli, olivescoleslaw salad and yoghurt, all under pita bread . Don't get me wrong, the sides were tasty but it's hard to justify paying that price for something unsubstantial. The chicken itself was wood roasted but most of it wasn't even edible because the fat wasn't trimmed off (nor rendered, and clung to very little meat) and we got the backend piece that still had little bits of feathers on it. This was so disappointing, we had tell the staff about it.

We weren't hoping or expecting anything, maybe just a few pieces of chicken that actually had meat. We didn't want a whole new plate. Before we could even anticipate what would happen next, we see the chef walk to our table...

He apologises and immediately offers us more meat, asking if we'd like to try their lamb. We're a bit caught off guard so we accept, appreciative of his personal apology. He then brings us back another plate...  

This plate still consists of salad, sour cream, the infamous chicken and pita bread, but there is an addition of the wood oven smoked lamb shoulder. Unfortunately, the chicken is still the same, still very fatty and there's hardly any meat, but it's the lamb shoulder that we're grateful. The meat is falling apart, definitely packing in the smokey flavour and is served with a salsa-like tomato sauce that adds acidity. It's definitely our preferred meat out of the two, so if anyone can't decide between the two, I suggest going with the lamb.

I first heard about Pazar when reading Not Quite Nigella's post last year, where everything looked enticing and delicious. On our first visit last last year, we loved that it was tasty and punchy in flavour but thought some dishes weren't the best value. However during this recent second visit, it was a bit of a let down as it looks like there's been some portion control (which I understand from the business' perspective) but some of the prices have also risen. Either way, I do enjoy the food but it's hard to overlook the difference between what you anticipate from reading off the menu and what actually arrives to the table. Nonetheless, I will come back for that beetroot dip, even if it's just for takeaway.

325 Canterbury Road

8964 9334

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