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Cafe Kashkar in Brighton Beach

  • j

Last night I went to this restaurant. I was first told about it by a friend who has traveled in Xinjiang and said that it was a Uighur restaurant, and then Sietsema gave it a good review a couple of months ago. I think that I should adjust my timing for this place, because we showed up at 8 pm on a Saturday night and were told that they were out of most items on the menu.

We ordered a potato salad, which was nice - not unusual for that dish, except nicely seasoned with dill. They gave us a carrot salad, too, which was similar to carrot salads I've had at Uzbek restaurants, although not as good (especially not as good at Registan in Rego Park). The lagman (lamb broth with noodles, cilantro, and spcies) was also not as good as lagman I had at Registan - not as flavorful.

However, the lamb kebabs were spectacular! There were two varieties, a straight-up lamb and lamb ribs. Both were tasty, juicy (alright, greasy, but in the best possible way), and flavorful.

The place actually seemed more Russian or Bukharan/Uzbek than Uighur (I am under the impression that Ramen King in the Flushing Food Court is Uighur, but I could be wrong), but whatever -- it's nice to have a good food option in Brighton Beach, where I have found it hard to find tasty food.

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  1. Thanks for this post! I've been meaning to get out to Cafe Kashkar in Brighton Beach (where I grew up many years ago) with a friend who has been trying to track a certain cuisine from Xinjiang. We came across Cafe Kashkar in a search (this board plus the Sietsma article you mentioned) and want to try this kind of Uighur food.

    However, the cuisine my friend is REALLY trying to find is from another ethnic group in Xinjiang, he describes it as Muslim Chinese cooking. He fell in love with it in San Francisco at a restaurant called Old Mandarin (on Vincente), and has been feverishly searching for something like it on the east coast ever since. His quest has led us to discover and sample Indian Chinese food, which was fun, but not exactly what he was looking for. After reading about Cafe Kashkar, we were intrigued (and we definitely plan to go), but it still doesn't seem to be exactly what he's been searching for. Do you or your friend who's travelled in Xinjiang have any ideas or leads for this poor guy? He has been obsessing about this food for over a year.

    Thanks again for the post, and any ideas or leads will be most appreciated.

    14 Replies
    1. re: deena

      Out of curiosity (I'd always thought the Uygur were Chinese Muslims), I researched this and found that the Chinese Muslims are also called Hui. Regardless, the only restaurants I've been able to find out about are not here in New York except that there is one called Greenhouse Restaurant in Manhattan at 37 East 29th Street (212) 684-9692 where the male owner is Muslim and they seem to be halal, but his wife isn't Muslim. It received mixed ratings, but many good at the halal restaurant guide site. Other than that, the closest place is in Rockville, MD.

      1. re: JH Jill

        Many thanks for all the info. I think that it might be Hui style cuisine that my friend is searching for-- there are probably several groups of Muslim Chinese from Xingjiang. I will check out the Greenhouse menu. And, just for the heck of it, do you have the name of the place you mentioned in Maryland?

        Thanks again,
        deena

        1. re: deena

          For years there was a little hole in the wall place on 4th Ave near Bergen or thereabouts called "No Pork Chinese Restaurant." The name tickled me, and I always assumed they were just catering to the Arab population in the neighborhood (or maybe someone was allergic??), but it turns out that the owners, brothers, were indeed Chinese Muslims. I don't know if it's still there.

          1. re: Amy Mintzer

            It's still there on the west side of Fourth Ave.

            1. re: jkl

              So many thanks to all who responded with such fascinating information and tips! It would seem that my friend is indeed seeking Hui style cuisine-- now if he could only find it someplace close to New York or Boston (he actually lives in Providence, but comes to NY frequently, and we do lots of chowing together.)

              I will check out the No Pork Chinese place, which I know I've passed as it's pretty close to BAM-- I also always figured they were catering to the local population. Meanwhile, if anyone has any leads on more places around the New York area, I'd love to hear about them. It's a bit daunting to realize how hard this cuisine is to find in NYC.

              Thanks again one and all for your help in this quest.

              1. re: deena

                Halal Kitchen (formerly, No Pork Chinese Restaurant) is on the corner of 4th Ave. and Dean St. The food here is typical 1960's Chinese takeout (and not very good 1960's Chinese takeout at that). The only thing that makes it Muslim, is that that meat is halal and of course there is no pork served. There is no harm in trying it once if you wish (it's certainly cheap enough), but I think you will be disappointed.

                1. re: bobjbkln

                  Thanks for the heads up about Halal, formerly No Pork Chinese. As others have pointed out on the Manhattan board on a related topic, there is a big difference between a restaurant that serves some kind of Chinese Muslim style cuisine, and one that is a Chinese restaurant which just happens to be owned or operated by Muslims, and is therefore halal, or because it caters to a Muslim neighborhood.

                  The quest for Hui cuisine continues on....

                    1. re: Donna

                      This link concerning Hui Cuisine makes no mention of Muslim origins. In fact, the listed dishes include those made of pork.

                      1. re: bobjbkln

                        Yes, this is confusing-- it seems to be referring to a kind of Hui cuisine which is not related to the Hui minority ethnic group, which is Muslim (see link below.) I did find another site with a bit of info about this style of cuisine. As for restaurants-- still searching.

                        http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro...

                        1. re: deena

                          I can recommend Peking Eastern House Restaurant at 16041 Frederick Road in Rockville MD (tel 301 527 8558). I can also highly recommend China Islamic Restaurant at 7727 East Garvey Ave, Rosemead CA (tel 626 288 4246) in suburban L.A. Last week in L.A. I had their most wonderful lamb dumplings, fresh hand-cut noodles with lamb, sesame bread, and lamb with sa cha sauce...best muslim Chinese food since travelling in Xinjiang, Qinghai and Gansu.

          2. re: deena

            From my understanding, Uighurs are ethnically, linguistically, and culturally related to other Turkic Muslim groups in Central Asia. Xinjiang used to be a seperate country (like Tibet and Inner Mongolia) known as East Turkestan a very long time ago. I think the Chinese cuisine that you and your friend are searching for is the cuisine of the Hui people (who are basically Han Chinese whose ancestors converted to Islam).

            There is a restaurant in Los Angeles called China Islamic which did this cuisine very well. This type of Chinese cuisine was very similiar to the Chinese cuisine of Northern China, Hunan, Szechuan and maybe some other places as well, except, that it was halal and might have had some slight Central Asian influences.

            The resaurant that you are inquiring about in Rockville, MD is called Peking Eastern House (AKA Dong Lai Shun). I have never been there but I have heard mixed reviews.

            Is Cafe Kashgar halal?

            1. re: Harsha

              They advertise themselves as halal.

            2. re: deena

              I lived in China for almost a year. Uyghur food was my favorite dining experience there. Hui are ethnically Chinese (Han) who have converted to Islam and may have some Arab ancestry. Uyghurs have their own Autonomous Region that is also known as Xinjiang ("New Frontier"). They were colonized by the ethnic Chinese. That is the difference. Uyghurs have Turkish/ ancestry and speak an old dialect of Turkish. Their food is influenced by Turkish, Aghani and Indian sources. Lamb is their main meat, while Chinese consume mostly pig flesh. So in fact, Uyghurs are very different than Hui. Like the Tibetans, many hope for independence from China and do not identify as Chinese.

        2. This seems to be the definitive post on this restaurant, so I'll keep it going.

          Was thinking of hitting this place tonight and was wondering if it was still around. Also, is it BYO - my last visit I seem to remember the party next to me had a bottle of vodka that they were sharing.

          1. To answer my own question - yes, it's still around. Yes, it's BYO (a block to the east is a bodega that sells Russian, Latvian, and Ukrainian beers). The food - good as ever - fatty chunks of pork cooked over charcoal. Plov (nee pilaf) and samsas - still tasty. 2 skewers of meat ($3 each), 2 samsas ($2 each), and a plov ($6) - total $16 - $20 w/tax/tip. If you're checking out the neighborhood, definitely consider if you're sick of the standard Russian fare the neighborhood.

            1. Went to Coney Island with friends and their kids and blissfully thankful that we made the trek over to Cafe Kashkar. Definitely worth a trip out there for itself but when you can also walk on the beach and "Shoot the Freak" it is one of the best things to do in NY in the summer.

              Absolute best lamb kebabs and grilled lamb ribs you will find. Soup with little lamb dumplings was exquisite, clear broth with essence of lamb from the fat leaking out of the dumplings. A pirogy-type item stuffed with layered potato slices and cabbage topped with a tomato based sauce (I can't remember the name). Marinated eggplant/pepper/garlic salad. All of it fantastic and increadibly cheap. They are open 10am-10pm 7 days a week, 1141 BBAve.

              Afterwards walk toward CI on Brighton Beach Avenue and stop into those markets and marvel at everything--maybe get a fresh-baked blintz or sour cherry pastries...the Russian bar/resturant on the NE corner of Coney Island Ave and BBAve (not under the subway tracks, across from the Washington Mutual Bank) serves big ice cold mugs of Baltika on tap (the food in there looked pretty good too).

              1. As lambretta76 said in July, this seems to be the thread on Kashkar so I'll thank everyone for the above and mention that a group of us are going for dinner on Monday 12/18. Anyone interested in joining, my e-mail is martinowitz@aol.com

                2 Replies
                1. re: Steve R

                  Yet another reason for keeping old threads around and not exiling them to some digital Gulag.

                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                    gotta agree with the rave reviews on this board about cafe kashkar. haven't been there in a year but every time i've really enjoyed all of their offerings.

                    incidentally, in the ny times article on central asian food from january 2006, it was mentioned that "there is at least one other" uighur restaurant in the city. anyone know the name of this other place, as well as the location? seems kind of funny that julia moskin would mention this fact in passing and not divulge the eatery's name.