Friday, August 26, 2005


I am proud to have discovered this splendid restaurant as a visitor to Los Angeles, prior to moving here and reading "Counter Intelligence". My friend Adam and I were driving toward Guitar Center on Sunset and the lookout was somewhat bleak. I spotted the minimall sign reading simply "Uzbekistan" [7077 Sunset Blvd. 323-464-3663 Hollywood] and we immediately pulled in for a delicious lunch special. More high end than most of the places in my website but still a great value, Uzbekistan delivers the goods with over-the-top Russian murals, a deafening violin trio on weekends, Russian language TV and most importantly the best Central Asian food I have eaten. I recently ate my tastiest meal ever there and can report some recommendations.

We ordered the plov (rice dish = pilaf = pollo) and karsky kabob (lamb chops), then paused for suggestions only to have the waiter reply that our requested items were the most quintessentially Uzbeki items. Unlike Persian pollo, plov is made with short grain rice and the spices are earthier with more cumin. Uzbekistan boasts that they are open from 11am until the last mouthfulu of plov, testifying to the popularity of the dish. Karsky kabob is lamb chops grilled to perfection, I generally prefer meat on the bone and these were even better than the regular lamb kabob we were generously given by some fellow diners (thanks, friendly Russian dudes!).

Chuchvara are fried meat dumplings, served with a mild tomato sauce. These were good but I suspect the boiled manti and pelmeni could be tastier. A good choice for the dumpling fanatic like me.

Pickled vegetables. Sounds prosaic? Not at a quality Russian restaurant where this stuff is essential. Juicy tomatoes, cucumbers and most essentially a half head of bright crimson cabbage that's vinegary and fermented. Maybe winters aren't so hard with treats like this to tide one over.

Eggplant and beef appetizer. I can't recall the name of this dish (begins with O) but the sliced roast beef and eggplant were a tasty combination. A nice change of pace from the eggplant-only stews common in the Balkans and Central Asia.

Blini with caviar. Louis Armstrong used to sign his letters "Red beans and ricely yours", and I've tried to think of other combinations with a similar ring. "Blini and borchstly yours" sort of works, except blini in my platonic ideal are paired with sour cream and caviar - in this case salmon caviar. One rolls the pancake into an irresistible Russian "burrito" - don't you love how Mexican food terms are used in this way, like "tamale" as a descriptor for Chinese jung/zongzi? Anyways, this dish reeked of delicate luxury as it should - figuratively because the caviar was high quality. Blini with caviar is one of the few foods I could stand to eat every single day.

Blini with strawberries. Much as I love blini and caviar, the dessert version is not half bad either. Blini are served with an amazingly thick and gooey strawberry syrup. Eat fast or it will solidify!

Uzbekistan really hit the spot for a celebration of my friend's move to Boston. Normally I would be suspicious of "the only X restaurant in town", but there are so many Russians in LA that this fear is allayed. At Uzbekistan, the food is prepared with care for people who know what they are coming for and that's a great recommendation.


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