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Baja Eats: Pastiche

Pastiche’s eclectic menu offers a delicious “hodge-podge of everything.”

November 8, 2017

Baja Eats

The word pastiche refers to “an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist, or period.” In Tucson, Pastiche is also a proper noun and the name of a restaurant that has been serving up “a hodge-podge of everything,” says executive chef Tim Moore.

Pastiche’s founder and owner Pat Connors was diagnosed with lung cancer and died in March 2017. The restaurant was sold to current owners Costas and Judie Georgacas within three weeks of his passing. The couple has carried on Connors’ approach to the types of food served at Pastiche, allowing Moore to continue his work crafting Pastiche’s menu uninterrupted. His approach? Bring in bits and pieces of recipes from diverse sources, source the best ingredients he can find, and allow those ingredients to shine.

Thick slices of tomato, mozzarella and beets top a golden-crisped polenta cake in Pastiche’s Smoked Heirloom Tomato Caprese Stack appetizer.

We started our meal with the Smoked Heirloom Tomato Caprese Stack appetizer ($10.25). The tower of fried polenta, thick slices of sweet red beet and heirloom tomato, and house-made mozzarella, garnished with bean sprouts and resting on a bed of greens, made for a beautiful presentation. Moore emphasizes that the smoked aspect of this dish contributes a very subtle flavor—the tomato is lightly smoked with applewood chips. “I didn’t want to use mesquite on something so delicate,” he explains. My favorite part of the dish was the polenta cake, which was golden brown and had a nice exterior crisp; it has an extra richness of flavor thanks to the butter and white wine reduction that Moore cooks it in. Moore also suggests the Fried Polenta ($7) found on the Indulgences section of the happy hour menu—it’s made from the scraps created when they cut the appetizer cakes.

Fall-off-the-bone tender and flavorful, the Pork Osso Bucco sits on a bed of rich mushroom risotto.

Reducing food waste is a theme in Pastiche’s kitchen, where Moore says they “try to cross-utilize everything in every dish we can.” They make their chicken stock in-house and add in the odds and ends from vegetables used in other dishes to enhance the flavor of the broth. That extra flavor pays off in the Ancho Chile & Beer Braised Pork Osso Bucco ($26), which features a one-pound pork shank nestled in a bed of tender green beans and a flavorful mushroom risotto. The pork shank was fall-apart tender after being braised and glazed for four hours, with an ancho chile and salt rub and a glaze made from Barrio Brewing’s Rojo beer enhancing the meat’s flavor. The risotto was an explosion of mushroom flavor, made with a blend of porchinni, shitaki, portobello, and button mushrooms, with light and crispy quick-fried shitaki mushrooms sprinkled over the dish. Mushroom lovers: This dish is for you.

Oh Mahi! Flakey fish, nutty black rice, and tender green beans make for a light yet filling entree.

The Macadamia Mahi-Mahi ($22) was another outstanding dish, featuring delicate, flakey fish coated in panko and macadamia nuts, and pan-seared. It was served on top of “forbidden” black rice, so-called because it was saved for emperors in ancient China. Moore describes the rice as having a “beautiful plate presence,” and its nutty flavor and tender grains played off well against a cluster of buttery green beans still fresh enough to squeak. The mango salsa fresca sprinkled over the plate is made from mangos, red onions, cilantro, lime juice, and honey, and along with the coconut lime sauce, added a citrusy tang to the plate.

Not your average margarita: the Nutty Jaliscan combines almond and orange flavors with tequila for a cool and sophisticated cocktail.

Pastiche has a large selection of libations to choose from, including an extensive whiskey list. I opted for the Nutty Jaliscan ($10.50 during happy hour), a riff on a margarita featuring tequila, orange liquor, and almond bitters. With an emphasis on both the orange and almond, it was an elegant and smooth reimagining, and would pair well with either small bites or a full meal.

Moore plans to continue to build Pastiche’s eclectic menu according to the ethos Connors established 19 years ago, including taking inspiration from a variety of culinary traditions and making the dishes his own. When I ask if there’s particular direction he’d like to go next, he says, “no real direction, other than really good food.”

3025 N. Campbell Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85719
(520) 325-3333

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