>> Nurlan Restaurant 诺兰饭店 | Eat the World NYC

13 August 2019

Nurlan Restaurant 诺兰饭店


The food of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has always lived on the fringes of New York City, with sprinklings of its excitement here and there. Now closed Kebab Empire had a stall in the New World Mall of Flushing and a satellite branch in Hell's Kitchen called YANA, while the most notable and talked about restaurant is probably Brighton Beach's Kashkar Cafe. The problem with the latter, the new owner of Nurlan on Main Street in Flushing, is that the cuisine there is seen through the lens of Russians, who add far too much yogurt to many dishes and cook it not dissimilar to Uzbek cuisine.

This same type of outside focus can be true from the Chinese perspective as well, as in the new Jiang Diner in the East Village that replicates how the cuisine might be interpreted in Shanghai or Beijing. It even bills itself a "Northwestern Chinese" restaurant, completely erasing the identity of the Uyghurs (something of a habit for China), although this has not stopped local food writers to shamelessly fawn all over it.

At Nurlan, while still created with the neighborhood's Chinese population in mind, the owners describe themselves as "Central Asian style Turkic Uyghur food." Yogurt, it should be said, was only found in the form of a drink made from cow's milk in the fridge.

With all that being said, if you are familiar with Uzbek and other Central Asian cuisines, you will feel right at home here at Nurlan. Start off with samsa ($2 each, above), a racquetball-sized pastry filled with lamb and surrounded by slightly flaky yet moist dough. These pastries are a mainstay of any Central Asian kitchen and might come in different sizes and shapes depending on who is cooking them. Here while they might not make you scream in joy, they do the work and are satisfying.

A loaf of their Uyghur bread ($2, below) should always accompany the table during a meal, but do ask if it will be fresh as the one received on this day unfortunately lacked its normal crispness and seemed microwaved.

The Nurlan laghman ($12.99, below) is served in typical Uyghur style like a plate of spaghetti rather than in soup like its Uzbek and Dungan brethren. Like samsa, laghman is well known all over the region and cooked in many styles but all featuring meat, vegetables, and hand-pulled noodles. This version features wood ear mushrooms and a very slightly spicy and very tasty tomato sauce.

Despite being disappointed with the bread, the table continued to tear off pieces just to soak up each and every drop of the sauce once the noodles were eaten.

Even more exciting, and maybe making a debut in New York City is Ding-Ding laghman ($11.99, below) which features handmade extruded noodles that are cut into small pieces that resemble corn kernels before closer inspection. These are a pleasure to eat, but require putting the chopsticks down in favor of a spoon to scoop up equal portions of the oily noodles, meat, and peppers. Again the plate demanded to be mopped clean.

The restaurant has called in the talents of a nearby Xinjiang BBQ grill cart, which is now parked right in front of the door (see top photo). Any order of the lamb or chicken kebab ($2 each) from the main menu, or one of several from an addendum menu passed out in addition will see the griller get to work outside if he was not there already.

The three lamb kebabs seen below are just as good or better as the carts found up and down Main Street, and come dusted with a cumin-forward spice mix.

Listed on the menu as ravioli ($10, below), the bowl is what is better known as manti, small and delicate little dumplings served in a subtle meaty broth. While the first bite does not cause shock, the small nuggets are pleasingly addictive and on this occasion were gobbled up quite rapidly by three eaters.

Nurlan is clearly focused on its food. The humble space has about eight tables and not much else. The only splash of color comes from the psychedelic animal print tablecloths that seem to start moving by the time all the empty plates and bowls have been removed. Since this is an alcohol-free establishment, the food must have had a part in this. With a full stomach, it is clearly time to go and get started on planning that next visit with a larger group for dapangi ($20 or $30, not shown), also widely referred to as "big plate chicken" and one of the most famous dishes to originate in Xinjiang.

Nurlan Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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