>> U Yuri Fergana | Eat the World NYC

19 September 2018

U Yuri Fergana


This article originally appeared in the 20 September 2018 issue of The Queens Tribune:

Among the community of food lovers around town, nicknames catchily adding “-stan” to Rego Park and its neighbors to denote some sort of Central Asian hotspot are common, but poorly represent the people and history of the area. Central Asian peoples of all varieties have been coming to New York City for many decades, but Rego Park and Forest Hills have seen mostly Bukharian Jewish immigration, and together currently serve as home to 50,000 of the estimated 70,000 Bukharian Jews in the United States. Many of those immigrants came via Israel, the only country that still has a larger Bukharian population today.

These people originated in the Emirate of Bukhara, in what is modern-day Uzbekistan. Virtually no Bukharian Jews remain in the emirate’s former capital of Bukhara. As times changed and politics followed, persecution resulted in a mass evacuation.

Religion has always played a big part in the lives of Bukharian people, so naturally their restaurants offer kosher cuisine. Even the less-religious among the restaurant owners will make sure that their foods are up to kosher standards so as not to alienate any of their potential customers in this part of Queens. Since Uzbek cuisine is normally halal, you will not notice a huge difference without looking hard, though sometimes the menus in Brooklyn will have shrimp and other shellfish or even pork.

U Yuri Fergana is a kosher Uzbek establishment named for the owner, Yuri Moshev, and his home city of Fergana in Uzbekistan. The kitchen at “Yuri from Fergana” is led by his wife Myra, also from Fergana, while their son Ben has become part of the business as well after a successful career as an East Village barber. Ben’s former customers have learned about the change through his Instagram, sometimes wondering where they will get their next haircut.

Quail plov. Photo by Sasha Maslov for The Queens Tribune.

Now Ben can be found with his parents among the gold, glitz and glitter of U Yuri Fergana’s interior, a far cry from the typical city barber shop. This over-the-top opulence is common in Russian-owned restaurants throughout the five boroughs, but what sets the place apart is its access to the family-owned livestock processing facility in Flushing. Both the restaurant and the processing facility opened at the same time two years ago, ensuring that the meats that are served on tables in the restaurant are always as fresh as possible. The business is successful and popular enough in the neighborhood that the family will soon be opening a nearby banquet hall for larger events accommodating up to 140 people, offering many of the same foods on a special-event menu.

Quail plov. Photo by Sasha Maslov for The Queens Tribune.

The quail plov (above), somewhat of a specialty of the house, and other “family style” dishes need to be prepared for large groups; if you’re coming on a slow night, you might even have to call ahead to make sure it’s available. Freshly laid quail eggs surround the luscious oily rice and tender whole quails stacked on top. Orders of plov should be accompanied by a fresh tomato or carrot salad, but benefit as well from the addition of colorful Israeli and eggplant salads to help cut through the fat. Ben told me that “without the salads, the plov is nothing.” Indeed, going back and forth between these textures and tastes is essential to making a large dent in the heavy plov.

Lagman. Photo by Sasha Maslov for The Queens Tribune.

House-made noodles in the lagman (above) are also of note here: long, thick tentacles that make you wonder if every bowl is just one extruded piece constantly slipping off your spoon. The deep, rich, reddish-brown soup is full of hunks of meat, vegetables and dill, and could stand as a meal on its own. Other starters like samsa are expertly baked in the tandoor oven. These famous Central Asian triangular pastries are full of juicy lamb and served piping hot. If your group is large enough, both steamed manti dumplings and fried dumplings that come in crispy bite-size balls are well worth ordering.

Shish kebabs. Photo by Sasha Maslov for The Queens Tribune.

No Uzbek or Central Asian meal is complete without a plate full of shish kebabs (above and below), especially here, where all the meats have just been freshly prepared. Available options run the gamut of different animals and cuts: Chicken hearts and veal livers go well with ground-beef lula kebabs, lamb ribs and chops. Surprisingly, the quail kebabs were the most disappointing on the night, not as flavorful and tender as the ones cooked for plov.

Photo by Sasha Maslov for The Queens Tribune.

Like most establishments around town that serve the cuisines of lands within the former Soviet Union, U Yuri Fergana is BYOB. You will see other tables take full advantage of this with multiple bottles of wine to accompany the meal, while vodkas and brandies are used to make toasts and wash down fatty courses. Though you will see parties of two come here to eat and chat, the full spirit of the place really comes alive in the evening, when families and friends come in large numbers and get loud. This is also when access to the family-style dishes becomes available and the kitchen can be fully appreciated. Connections to Bukhara and a nomadic history beginning in present-day Uzbekistan are easily imagined.

Despite the fact that the vast majority of customers converse in Russian, non-Russian speakers should not be discouraged from coming here to enjoy the food and atmosphere. Music videos play constantly, cycling between Russian, Uzbek and Persian—the volume rising in tandem with that of cheerful customers. Stare one too many times at the toasting tables next to yours and shots will start being offered. There is plenty of good spirit, and spirits, to go around.

Photo by Sasha Maslov for The Queens Tribune.

Photo by Sasha Maslov for The Queens Tribune.

U Yuri Fergana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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