5/10/2014

Samarkand Restaurant in North Philadelphia, PA

Large dining area, with two small private rooms behind the red curtains

I was delighted to have been invited to an Uzbek restaurant to celebrate my dear friend's mother's 97th birthday. Delighted-- of course-- to celebrate such a milestone, but also because I had wanted to attend a party at such a restaurant after a friend told me of a Ukrainian wedding banquet she had enjoyed last year. While I have tried this type of cuisine before, this party was really unlike any other I have attended before.

For starters, my friend is Mongolian and her background is one of our favorite topics of discussion. Mongolian people have Asian facial features, but with the country's proximity to Russia, their culture in both dress and cuisine, as well as language, make them more of a Euro-Asian people. We joke that they were Eurasians before Eurasians were trendy! So in a party of 10-- as a Filipino-- I was the only Asian-looking person who could not speak Russian to the server.

The language barrier was the last barrier for me. My eyes feasted on the lavish decor, with the party table already set with cold starters that included a variety of salads served in large goblets, surrounding platters of smoked fish and meats. The traditional Uzbek bread needed no butter, as it was flavorful all on its own. After this first course, four large dishes were served one by one, family-style, which were: crepes & caviar (not pictured), meat dumplings, plov, and chicken Kiev. I dove into them all with a hearty appetite and curiosity for everything presented. 

I didn't have any favorites because everything was above and beyond good, but I can tell you I passed on the cold fish and meats, because I just don't like those. I'm not accustomed to eating caviar either. The plov was a traditional dish that was the heaviest of all, with large cuts of lamb mixed into an oily rice pilaf with sweet carrot strings. The chicken Kiev deserved to be videotaped to capture the warm butter oozing theatrically out of the chicken upon slicing. Even simple fried potatoes tasted grand and heavenly.

This is the type of dining experience I wish I could have on a regular basis. Anyone celebrating a birthday or wedding anytime soon?

Plov (Lamb and rice pilaf)
Meat dumplings
Chicken Kiev with fried potatoes 
Smoked fish sampler
Assorted cold salads and appetizers

Samarkand Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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