63-61 108th St., Forest Hills
Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat. 8 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Alcohol: Full bar
Any experienced traveler is familiar with the simple fact – if you like to try authentic food in a new country, you have to find the place where local people eat. This is still true if we are talking about our melting pot of Queens.
In other words, when I decided to have a taste of real Central Asian food, I lay aside the idea of well-known fancy restaurants and went to most recommended by my local friends: a small Bukharin kosher restaurant called Salute.
I don’t know what Aladdin and Genie had for dinner, but when I smelled the combination of flavors searing off the dishes brought in by my smiling waiter, I realized – the fairy tale had begun.
At first look, tomato, onion and eggplant are all very usual and simple vegetables. Salad Achik-Chuk (thin sliced tomatoes and red onion) and Ochor (marinated mini-eggplant) made me think otherwise. I ordered Shurpa – lamb soup with carrot and peas – and looked forward to the coming Samsa (pirozhki with chopped lamb) and Shish-Kebab prepared on charcoal.
I can talk about shish-kebab over and over again. At Salute, I found 18 kinds: specially-marinated lamb, veal, chicken and fish. I couldn’t try all of it, but those I had, without exaggeration, melted in my mouth.
And then came the Pilav! Pilav is the real king of Central Asian cuisine. Pilav is more than simply food – it contains a significant ritual, art and even philosophy. Each region and even small village has their own secret recipe.
Salute is the restaurant where you can became familiar with these cooked and seasoned wisdoms of Central Asia, and to experience food prepared to create a culinary fairytale for us. If you are consider yourself a specialist of Asian cuisine or you’ve just decided to discover new tastes and flavors, I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised after visiting Salute.
Oh, and don’t forget to order fresh national bread – it would take the whole article to describe the way it had been baked on the wall of special oven – Tandir.
– Vladimir Grjonko