14 August 2009

Taam Tov

UZBEKISTAN
ISRAEL

**14 August 2009 update:
I took a full two stars from Taam Tov today because many things had happened since I was there last time, the most important of which was the quality of the food had fallen off a cliff. In the diamond district of Midtown, this little lunch counter use to be the actual diamond in the rough, but has since moved across the street (their old building is now a large hole in the ground) into an expanded dining room, and seemingly concentrated on turning the place from an Uzbek kebab takeout to a sit down Israeli joint.

I was looking over the menu when I reached the third floor and the pushy manager must have requested we take a seat at least three times. I was with a vegetarian, so I told him we were just checking to make sure some of the salads and hummus dishes would be adequate for her, but instead of directing us to look at the baba ghanoush or many other vegetarian items on the menu, all we got was "please go inside, there are many tables."

We were already set on eating here or the experience might have pushed us away. I guess they get a lot of stray tourists walking up the three flights in curiosity and try to get them into tables before they change their mind, but I told the manager to calm down and stop rushing us. The problem with Midtown is that there just are not a lot of good options, and I knew from a couple years ago that this place had excellent food.

Unfortunately I will stop recommending it with such vigor to those around Times Square, probably just mentioning its existence when someone needs a quick lunch tip in the area instead. As stated before, the Uzbek style of the meal here has been all but lost except for the appearance on the menu of things like lagman (a common soup) and lepeshka, the bread that highlights a good Uzbek meal. The kebabs are still good, and go for around $12-13 for two with a side dish. Ordering them a la carte also used to be possible but seems to be out of the question now.


Paired with a half-loaf of lepeshka ($2), the baba ghanoush ($5, small order, above) is actually quite good, stinging of garlic in every bite. The only downside is that the eggplant is diced up so fine that you hardly notice it.

I could not remember ever ordering the Uzbek pilaf ($10, below) so I decided to give it a try. I should have known I would not like it simply for the fact they spelled it this way instead of "plov." It came out so quickly that even before chewing yesterday's rice I could tell that the thing had been microwaved, especially since my plate was warm. The carrots were lifeless and the meat was mostly fat, I guess what they meant by the word "juicy" on the menu.


I will certainly still come here for a lunch when in the area of Times Square, but I've learned my lesson and will stick with the kebabs. It's a shame that this gem has decided to lose its Uzbek roots and sharpen its image, all for the worse in my opinion. It's now not the super-cheap takeout it used to be, with all prices rising across the menu.


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