Monday, June 27, 2016

Uzbekistan: Love those Stans

With no Uzbekistani restaurant to be found in Berlin, I decided to hit up the neighborhood Uzbek joint while visiting my parents in the States. I love Ruz-Uz, a Russian-Uzbek restaurant that just appeared a few years ago and has thankfully managed to stay in business. I'm more a fan of their Uzbek dishes, than the Russian items (though of course there is cross-over in the cuisines) as much fun as it is to order "Fish Under Coat" (basically a herring salad with potatoes). The Uzbek dishes have such complexity of flavor and taste so unlike other cuisines I'm more familiar with, they stay with you somehow. As such, I have never been able to order anything other than qovurma
lagmon, described in the most literal of terms on the menu as "homemade pasta fried with beef, tomato, squash, celery and spices." I suppose that is all true, but the spices and the delicacy of the noodles! It's also the most unusual pasta dish - nothing like any Italian or Asian noodle dish, but completely delicious. Go to Ruz-Uz now and order this dish! For what it's worth, I can also recommend the Plov (the most festive and delicately flavored version of this rice dish I've had), the manti and the borscht. It wouldn't kill Ruz-Uz to get rid of the televisions (I think there are two). This isn't a hole-in-the-wall (I think they might even have white table clothes?), they aren't showing Russian or Uzbek games, and the showing of random American athletic events does nothing to add to the dining experience.  Still, that's a minor complaint - definitely worth overlooking to eat this food.

1000 N. Randolph St., Arlington

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Uruguay: eine Ueberraschung

Back in the fall, I happened upon the Pecados truck at the Winterfeldplatz market, which led to a spontaneous lunch of Uruguayan empanadas. When I tried to find them there again recently, they were nowhere to be seen and it seems they've relocated to other markets (Spittelmarkt, Fehrbelliner Platz, and Mauerpark). This is too bad for me, but maybe better for you? Hopefully because the empanadas were quite good, if not life-changing. I've spent time in Chile and can assure you that the ONLY way to make good meat empanadas is to chop the meat yourself with a knife. You simply cannot get away with purchased ground meat. That said, I don't think I've ever had a meat empanada outside the Southern Cone that was made with hand-chopped meat. Pecados is no exception, but I guess we can't judge them too harshly if nobody else is willing to do it. In all fairness, according to their website, they do sell Empanadas de Carne Cortada al Cuchillo (meat empanadas chopped with a knife), but they didn't have these the day I found them and in the picture on their site, the meat looks like it's in big pieces, not minced. In any case, if you happen upon Pecados, have an empanada and most definitely have an alfajor (dulce de leche (AKA manjar) between two crumbly shortbread-ish cookiesmaybe the world's best sandwich cookie (when done well)). After the alfajor you won't care if the meat was pre-ground (or get the spinach one, which feels untraditional to me, but I liked better than the meat).