Friday, September 26, 2008

A Taste of Kyrgyzstan/Uzbekistan in New York

I lost count of how many times people in Kyrgyzstan told me about their compatriot who opened a restaurant in New York City. They all knew the name, Arzu, the same name as a popular restaurant in Bishkek. They told me it was wildly successful, that all the New Yorkers ate there. So of course, when I returned to New York, I had to look this place up.

I found it described as a hole-in-the-wall, with rock-bottom prices and great food. So I went to see for myself.

Arzu is located in Queens and the sign is so easy to miss we walked right past it. It caters to people from the former Soviet Union and the waitstaff exhibit the typical sullenness and will speak to you in Russian before English. The menu is very much like one you’d see in Kyrgyzstan – featuring pelmeni, Korean carrot salad, manti, kebabs, lepushka bread.

The lepushka was the big disappointment. It lacked the doughy, yeasty softness that makes a good lepushka in Kyrgyzstan. The other items had been modified a little to meet American tastes (ie. the Korean carrot salad lost some of it’s typical spice), but they were good. The winners were the pelmeni soup and the kebabs with tender, succulent meat.

With nothing over $7 or so , no one will complain about the price. You’ll leave stuffed and will probably have some cash left over after a substantial meal.

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