The awning of this tiny and eccentric spot has an angry tea kettle, a happy tea kettle, and a play on words equating a lack of tea to death. They are proud of their little tea house (chayhana), even if it is nothing like one. The space inside is quite drab, but you can grab a table and eat here. Most customers come in and grab takeout orders, or sacks full of fresh bread that is stacked in plastic trays right as you enter. This is a sister restaurant to Tandoori Food & Bakery in Rego Park.
Do not get your hopes up in a search for Tajik food here, as some clues on the internet lead you to believe. This is not Tajik food, it is Uzbek food, pure and simple. Good Uzbek food though, that is for sure.
The centerpiece of the hot kitchen is the large oven, although not completely traditional as you can see gas lines running to it in the bottom right corner. They pump out the 12" discs of leposhka ($2, below) as something of a standard. We saw some people come in and grab up to 20 of them at a time. It was my understanding that this was the word in Russian and non was the word in Uzbek, but here they have both listed on the menu, each for $2.
Our meal began with the crisp fresh salad ($5, below), of tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions with some dill spread on top. The tomatoes are hard and out of season, but the crunchiness is still a good start.
Have you ever eaten an Uzbek meal without a bowl of lagman ($4.50, below) as part of it? I did not think so. The noodles are made fresh here, so this is definitely recommended. The dark hearty sauce and plenty of vegetables make this very appealing to most palates.
Manty ($5, below) here are also covered in dill. The skins are unusually tough, but I like that. A plate of three is quite a bargain really.
When you cut them up, the insides fall right out. It is definitely on the salty side but does not seem like too much.
Uzbek plov ($7.50, below) is the national dish of the country, and obviously needs to be part of your meal as well. The bed of yellow rice and thin carrots is quite oily, as always, but the chunks of lamb are really fabulous.
Kebabs also figure in to the daily cuisine of Central Asia quite highly, so we ordered three different ones. As is typical, the thin tomato sauce that really has no benefit to anything is served right along side any and all kebabs. From the left, you see lolah ($2.50, ground lamb), lamb ($3.25) and veal liver ($3.50). The liver is overly dry and full of iron, while the lamb is satisfying. The winner, as expected, is the lolah, although not the most exceptional version we have ever tried.
It takes a certain amount of patience and a good deal of time to eat here. The one and only woman that takes care of the place is often consumed by walk in customers ordering and picking up takeout. Dine-in service seems to be an afterthought, and if you are hungry and/or antsy, you might mistake this for rudeness.
Somewhat fascinating, and quite out of reach for the casual customer is a whole separate world that exists on the "special order" section of the menu. If you call ahead and probably make a big order, over 20 more items are available to you. Catering anyone?