Nargis Cafe: Borat May Not Approve, But I Do

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For this one, credit will have to go to my grandparents. They spent the entire summer nagging that we needed to eat here, but for one reason or another it took forever to actually go. It’s a small, cozy Uzbeki restaurant (don’t let Borat’s opinion of the country deter you though), with outdoor seating and a friendly atmosphere, though the music is much too loud; it’s a restaurant, not a club, and people actually want to hear each other talk. Get with the program. If you’re going to go, go with a group because, as you’re about to see, the appetizer portions only come in family style sizes. And if you only speak english, don’t worry the menu has translations. Oh, and you can BYOB, or at least they didn’t care that we had our own stuff, so bring what you like.

The Appetizers

Non

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Okay, I’m cheating here. This is more of a side than an Appetizer, but it’s the first thing we ate so just go with it. The non is okay, but nothing special. It comes in warm, which is great, but not fluffy enough on the inside. On its own it was only okay, but it worked nicely when incorporated with other dishes.

Spring Salad with Cheese

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I should note at this point that I wasn’t involved in ordering any of the apps, so this may have not been the most original thing to go with. Having said that, that’s exactly my complaint with the salad; it’s plain and generic. The ingredients tasted fresh enough I guess, but at the end of the day it’s the same old salad that one might get at any other slavic restaurant. It tasted fine I guess, but nothing to go out of my way to get; feel free to ignore this and try something more fun.

Fried Eggplant Salad

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As someone who doesn’t normally like eggplant at all, this was a delightful surprise. It’s light, with a hint of spice, and a good cold app considering the weather was death outside. Save the non, and eat it with this; it works wonderfully as a spread for the bread. Or eat it on its own, what the fuck do I know.

The Soup

Lagman

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This is soup’s a real winner; it was also an integral part of my grandparents’ pitch to get us to go here. Last year for brother’s birthday, we took the family to Ippudo for some of the best ramen in NYC. So when it came to selling Nargis Cafe, they kept repeating, “they have soup just like the japanese place.” Let me tell you now, the soup is good, but it’s no ippudo. It’s also not a ramen, so I’m not sure why the comparison was being made in the first place. Point being, it’s very good, maybe even great. The broth has a nice thickness to it, not too thick that it makes the whole soup feel too heavy, but thick enough that it doesn’t just taste like flavored water. It’s also spicy, not very spicy, but it’ll slowly build up as you slurp away. In the soup were also homemade noodles, some diced beef, and vegetables. The noodles were lovely, a smidge flat and soft. Brother claimed they were udon noodles, I don’t think that’s the case. Similar, maybe, but not actually udon noodles. the meat was well cooked and soaked up the broth well so you got a lot of flavor out of the meat. The veggies didn’t do much for me though, at least not the peppers. They were just…well there, I can’t say they added anything unless you really like bell peppers. But there’s so much going on in the soup already, they felt largely unnecessary. Also, I should note here, there are two soup sizes. The menu doesn’t say this, but you can order a half-soup, which is the size of the above photo. I don’t know how big the full size is, but I can tell you, you don’t need the full size. You’re working your way through a lot of food here, let’s not get greedy, you’ll be stuffed by the end anyway.

Hot Entrees

Let’s get the disappointment out of the way first.

Samsa

I don’t even have a photo for this one because it just wasn’t worth remembering. Brother ordered this one, and he probably wishes he could forget it ASAP. The Samsa is a meat pie, except there’s way too much bread, and the meat is just not that good. Poor guy, he was warned not to order it, but he went ahead anyway. He wanted to try something new and, alas, things did not go his way. This is a critique of only the meat samsa, they also have a pumpkin samsa, but I doubt it’s any better. With that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.

Manti

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I. Love. Dumplings. And god damn it these were good! They’re steamed meat dumplings and are lightly seared to brown the dough just enough to add some nice color. the filling is really superb, meaty, and soft, and tender. Brother claims that one of his dumplings was too chewy, that he may have gotten a fatty piece in there (he hates fat in meat, weirdo) but I didn’t have the same complaint with any of the ones I ate. So I’m going to chalk this complaint to either a freak mistake that no one else tasted, or he just doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Get the manti and enjoy.

Chebureki

No photo for this one either, not because it was bad, but because people ate it too quickly before I had a chance to get my phone out for the photo. I also started filling up here too much and still had more food on the way, so I only ate a small sliver. These are deep fried meet pies, flatter than the samsa, and much tastier. The dough wasn’t really that memorable, but the meat tasted great, from the small amount I had. Everyone else seemed to love it, so I’ll just adopt their opinion here. I was kinda starting to die from the amount of food I’ve had at this point, so you guys might want to order less when you go.

The Kebab

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What you see here, is a single piece of kebab. Don’t let this fool you, there was originally a whole skewer of them just for me. What happened here was a two part problem. The first, I was so out of it from all the food by this time, that I forgot to take a photo right away (this was the last piece from my skewer). The second is that it smelled so good, I dove in much too quickly and didn’t remember to take a photo until the food sedation kicked in again. Having said that, I had the lamb kebab, and it was delicious. It was moist, tender, and beautifully cooked, if not maybe a little under-seasoned. It also came with a mountain of onions soaked in lemon juice. I say soaked, but I really mean drowned. The lemon was way too strong. There was also a skewer of beef kebab going around, but that one didn’t really tickle my fancy. It was overcooked, much too chewy, and just didn’t compare to the lamb. The skewers come with 4-5 pieces, and you might be thinking to yourself, “I’m gonna need more than one skewer if that’s all I’m getting.” You’re wrong, take it from me, by the time you get to the kebabs, you’ll barely be conscious enough to complete full sentences, much less eat more than one skewer. The food coma will be strong, but damn well worth it.

Fries

I won’t waste much time on this, but someone ordered fries for the table and they were worthless. They didn’t fit the rest of the meal, nor were they good on their own. There’s enough food here that you don’t need to concern yourself with such a bad side dish.

One final note. This didn’t happen to me, but apparently this is the case. You need to tell them that you don’t want all your food coming at once, or they’ll send out all the food at once. So just let them know that you don’t want all the food sent out at once and you’ll be good to go. Or have all the food at once, maybe that’s the more fun way to go. Do whatever you want.

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