Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Choyhona Silk Road Bistro

After reading 1000yregg's blog post on the new cuisine in town, Mr Minx and I decided that a visit to Choyhona Silk Road Bistro was in order. Choyhona serves food from Uzbekistan, the most populous country in Central Asia, located just north of Afghanistan. The cuisine features lamb, yogurt, and grain-based dishes like breads and dumplings, and isn't dissimilar to other cuisines in the region.

When we arrived at the restaurant, there were two small but boisterous parties going on, with a third scheduled for later in the evening, so it appears that the Uzbek population in the area has already discovered the place. We sat in a quieter far corner of the room and ordered a table-full of food. The prices are outrageously cheap, so we went a little crazy, knowing that leftovers could be utilized for lunches later in the week. We started off with glasses of the homemade fruit drink, which was a cloudy pink and tasted vaguely of cherries.

Out of several varieties of salads (the descriptions of which reminded me of both the Middle Eastern veg and yogurt salads and the chopped veg salads popular in Eastern Europe) we went for the suzma with radish, a combination of sliced radish and cucumber in a tangy yogurt sauce with lots of chopped dill. With it came the bread we ordered, a Frisbee-sized loaf of tandoori nan that bore no resemblance to the more familiar Indian flatbread of the same name.

suzma salad with radish
tandoori nan
Uzbeki nan is a far sturdier bread which Mr Minx thought was more akin to a soft pretzel in texture, possessing a dense breadiness and a glossy smooth crust. (Note: leftover bread, split horizontally, makes a damn good pizza crust when topped with a bit of sauce and cheese.)

We also tried two versions of the dumplings called manti, a steamed version stuffed with cubed potatoes and served with sour cream, and a crispy fried version stuffed with bits of lamb and served with thinly sliced lightly pickled red onion.

steamed manti with potato filling
crispy manti with meat filling
The steamed version was similar to thick-skinned pierogi, while the crispy version was completely different, more like meat pies. Both versions were HUGE, nearly as big as my fist. While both were tasty, I preferred the crispy version because of the interesting play of texture between the crisp outside and the still-soft inside surface of the dough, reminding me a bit of a Chinese-style pan-fried dumpling.

We also tried two of the several varieties of kabobs, the lamb rib, and the "delicatessen." Forewarned by 1000yregg, we knew that the delicatessen kabobs were actually bits of lamb testicle. They had a somewhat fluffy or springy texture, like a fish meatball, and a very very delicate liver flavor. I quite liked them.

"delicatessen" (aka lamb testicles) and lamb rib kabobs
The lamb ribs were still on the bone, and extremely juicy - and my favorite part of the meal. The kabobs were served with a pitcher of pomegranate molasses for dipping.

And just because of the name, we ordered the "Jiz-biz," which was lamb chunks served over french fries and topped with more pickled onions. The lamb was toothsome and there were some nicely juicy fatty bits; the fries looked great, but were a little greasy for my taste.

We finished up with an order of baklava, which the restaurant was happy to serve on two plates for us. The Uzbek version of the sweet bore little resemblance to the syrupy and occasionally-cloying filo and nut pastry that most of us are familiar with; rather, I felt Choyhona's was far closer to a French mille feuille, as the pastry was drier and there was a creamy layer hidden within. 

half a serving of baklava
Overall, an interesting and rib-sticking meal. We were very pleased with the meat dishes and plan to go back and try more varieties of both kabobs and salads.

Choyhona Silk Road Bistro
607 Reisterstown Road
Pikesville, MD 21208
(410) 878-2929
Choyhona Silk Road Bistro on Urbanspoon

Posted by theminx on Minxeats.com.

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