Monday, July 3, 2017


Traveling outside the United States can be quite expensive with the high cost of transportation and lodging alone.  One thing that Queens can afford you is being able to spend a few hours taking in a country’s atmosphere and authentic cuisine.  That is the one thing that immigrants have certainly brought here.  As the years have gone, countries have split into smaller ones.  Thus the cuisines are even a bit infused.

Taste of Samarkand sits on the border of Middle Village and Rego Park with a cuisine from Samarkand, a city from the Asian bordered country of Uzbekistan.  Samarkand sits along the ancient Silk Road, where travelers and merchants traded their culinary goods from China to the Mediterranean Sea, thus we get some of the imported spices.    

David Abramov, a Bukharan Jew from Tajikistan, met up with Rasul Hoshimov, an Uzbek Muslim from Samarkand during a construction project.  It was just a few years ago that they decided to open Taste of Samarkand and keep a kitchen kosher.  They hired chefs Cholpon Turganbaeva and Mahmud Shokirov and redecorated with imported objects. 

Music fills the air via tv screens and many evenings of a singer/guitarist.   The female waitstaff are dressed in what appears to be a traditional and very colorful long tunic and long pants.  

BYOB is almost expected in this sometime “party” atmosphere.  There was a table of men nearby eating, drinking and in much discussion.  Dim sum came to mind as that Chinese tradition stemmed from businessmen getting together and eating appetizers.  In this case it was like a Russian banquet as the appetizers, soups, entrees, etc. just kept on coming out from the kitchen while shots of vodka was the main beverage.  That is not to say that pots of green tea did not get placed on their table. 

General Manager Lina Binkauskaite was most helpful in assisting me with the menu.  A pitcher of punch suited my thirst   It is prepared daily from various fruits.  

Now, to the food.  Uzbek is noted for their grain farming, thus the use of noodles and bread products.  Squash, eggplant and tomatoes are significant and black cumin seeds, imported from Uzbekistan, are a dominant spice as it has a much stronger and sweeter flavor than the white ilk.  

“Man cannot live by bread, alone.” Though true, you may want to taste all three.  Lepyoshka, a standard of Uzbek made from water, yeast and flour, is round and airy with a “semi-hole” in the middle. Shish kebob makes for a perfect accompaniment.  Lamb, lamb ribs, lamb chop, ground lamb, veal liver, ground chicken, chicken thighs, quail, vegetable, beef skirt steak, and wild salmon are some of the options.  I sampled a skewer of lamb ribs, beef skirt steak, and lamb chunks.  Thanks to the marinade and use of pieces of lamb fat with the chunks, it was quite savory. Beef skirt steak had a marinade and with just the cut alone, produced a very tender piece of bbq.  

A bowl-shaped matzah thin bread is made by patting and slapping dough around what is called a “kazan”, a Chinese wok looking frying pan.  It is then baked over the stove until it gets that matzah crisp texture.  I detected the flavor of cumin in this one. 

Fatir, a puffy bread, is baked with layers of a butter substitute as dairy is a no-no here.  This particular one, “made from scratch” is most outstanding. The texture is sort of a cross between phyllo dough and bread.  My perfect use for this was with two of the spreads: babaganush, that begins with smoked eggplant; and hummus made with mashed chickpeas and tahini.  This was topped with paprika and chick peas. 

Let’s get to some appetizers such as Samsa.  Layered dough wraps over finely chopped veal and lamb meat, onion and spices wrapped in the dough and cooked in the oven. Sauce on the side has a tomato base and not spicy, but has lots of garlic....I'll pass. Very inexpensive and filling, not to mention delicious!  Uzbek manti is comparable to a large broth-y steamed dumpling with the same ingredients as the Samsa.  

With many salads to choose from I opted for the Samarkand Salad 2, their winter salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, pickled cucumbers, potato chips, beef, dill, dressed with a drizzled mayonnaise. Potato chips shaped like noodles, rather than chips, provided the perfect "crunch" to the palate.

Stand up and applaud the chef who is in charge of the soups. I sampled what all Uzbekistanis beckon for; Lagman Soup.  Thick homespun stretched noodles are the highlight.  Chunks of tender, slow-cooked beef with onions, sweet peppers, carrots, in a savory beef stock.  I could taste both the cumin and dill.  The noodle idea comes from nearby Korea.  In fact there are a few Korean dishes served here.

Nakhot  Garmack, one of the main dishes is another must to try (You either keep coming back here or bring a group and share everything).  I never had or heard of eating veal tail.  They braise it for hours producing a broth worth dipping the provided crusty bread into. The second compote is chickpeas.  This dish is topped with thinly sliced red onions.   As for me, I’ll take veal tail over oxtail any day!  

Baklava was my dessert choice.  I didn’t even ask if there were options.  Excellent.  When you order a pot of tea a small tray of a sort of “trail mix” accompanies it on one side.  It was a mix of  candied pineapple, sugared chickpeas, raisins, and nuts that were coated with honey and sesame seeds. The other side had small cubes of sugar.  

Taste of Samarkand is located at 62-16 Woodhaven Blvd. Hours are: Sun-Thu: 11am - 11pm, Fri: 11am-5pm, Sat: 8pm - 12am.  718-672-2121. 

On another day I had food delivered.  This time I tried the Chebureki and their pilaf dish.  


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