2007_11_FoodSamarkandFront.jpgIt would seem that the area around Rego Park and Forest Hills that we like to call Rego Parkistan could scarcely support another kosher kebab joint given how ubiquitous these restaurants specializing in Uzbeki cuisine have become. By our reckoning there at least seven of these spots proffering swordlike skewers laden with lamb, chicken and beef along with various Central Asian salads and meat pies. What’s more, with exception of a few that offer such items as lamb fat kebabs, these places often have menus that are practically identical. Nevertheless two weeks ago we noticed that yet another – Restaurant Samarkand – had cropped up. We decided to give this smallish spot, which takes its name from Uzbekistan's second largest city, a try last night. Samarkand is one of the world's oldest cities and judging by its menu, which features a photo of an ancient town square complete with minarets Samarkand's owners are quite proud of this heritage.


Samsa, or round meat pies filled with lamb are as common as samovars filled with green tea at Uzbeki restaurants, but Samarkand’s are the best we’ve ever had. Instead of a mass of gristly grey ground lamb these slightly smaller versions were filled succulent chunks of meat. In fact we've already renamed this spot Samsaland. Too bad that the fried pelmeni weren’t equally good; they spent just a tad too much time in hot oil. We ordered the bright achik chuchuk or, tomato salad with pepper, onion and garlic for two reasons: vegetables were needed given the onslaught of meat that was to come and also because its acidity counterbalances the richness of lamb fat.


Two meaty skewers of lamb riblets landed on our table glistening with the aforementioned fat. They were juicy and thankfully not oversalted, which is often the case. Our dining companion liked them so much that he stripped every last bit of meat from the tiny bones. He even went so far as to peel away the browned membrane, deeming it candy-like. While we don’t see eye to eye with him on the membrane, there’s no argument that these are some of the best lamb ribs in the nabe. Whenever Gothamist sees an unfamiliar item we always order it. Such was the case with chalakhach, which turned out to be a pair of toothsome lamb chops. As you can see we also had a tarragon soda. Sadly, the photo doesn't do justice to its shocking green color.

Restaurant Samarkand, 98-98 Queens Blvd., Rego Park, 718-263-4444