Sunday, June 11, 2006

Restaurant Salute

Tonight was the night. I finally got a hold of an unthinkably long noodle. That's right, for the first--and last--time ever, I sampled Bukharian cuisine, the cuisine of Central Asian Jews, neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardic, profiled not long ago in the NYT Dining section. The particular restaurant I ate at, Rego Park's Restaurant Salute, is both kosher and Uzbek, was, as one might guess from this, both bland and odd. Tasty in a way, but if someone were to declare this his favorite type of cooking, I would suggest he get his tongue examined at Lourdes, and then go on to Paris to eat something, uh, not at all Bukharian.

We began with a garlicky, "Korean," shredded-carrot salad, which was either delicious or I was really hungry or both. We also got a giant, bowl-shaped, matzo-like bread which allegedly came from a tandoori oven, with caraway seeds baked into it, and which tasted rather matzo-like indeed. Randomly enough I'd had matzo for lunch (I like it best out-of-season) so I remembered quite well what "real" matzo is like, and slightly prefer what comes out of the box. Then I had some langman, a greasy and tasteless soup containing bits of red meat--kosher, but with not much else going for it--potatoes, and surprisingly normal-length noodles. The noodles were fine, but I'm not gonna lie, I was expecting them to be much longer. Then I had an Uzbek dumpling, with an oniony, beefy filling vaguely reminiscent of Indian food in ways I could only explain if I had a better knowledge of spices, but otherwise sort of like a watery kreplach. And finally, a ground-beef-and-lamb skewer, which I chose over the lamb-fat kebab, but which might as well have been given the same name.

During my brief time in Restaurant Salute, I observed the following:

An otherwise normal-looking woman, stuffing her face with a handful of raw onions.

An otherwise skanky-looking older couple, at a table with others around their age, pounding down the vodka, the man and his lacy-shirt-wearing wife pausing occasionally to burp each other and laugh.

The TV screen, set on an either Russian or otherwise former Soviet variety show, tacky and Borat-esque as all get-out but whatever, kitsch makes a nice change from hipster irony, but then all of a sudden the channel changed, and for a few good seconds there, the dance numbers were replaced by some hardcore pornography. The channel was soon corrected, but whoa. It's one thing, classiness-wise, for a restaurant to have TVs going in the first place; it's another entirely to see a woman's bare breasts and a heaving motion while you're just trying to order an unthinkably long noodle.

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