Good Manhattan places for manti or other Central Asian/Eastern European foods?
We'll be in Manhattan with our two girls (ages 7 & 12), staying at the Hotel Benjamin on 50th/Lex, arriving Fri night and staying only until Sun.
Our girls grew up in Kazakhstan (a country bordering Russia, China/Mongolia and near Uzbekistan). They only arrived in the U.S. about 6 months ago. We live in the San Diego area (although I'm a former NYC dweller), where we haven't been able to find places that serve favorite foods from their childhood, such as manti, pelmeni, borscht, golubtsi. Manti is by far, the most favorite of all their foods, so we plan to find at least one good place to have manti while we're in NY. I've done a search on the Manhattan board and found a few places serving manti: Turkish Kitchen, Taam Tov (sounds like a perfect place but, unfortunately, looks like it's only open Mon-Fri), Pasha (might be too pricey and fancy for us), Ali Baba and Zeytin.
I'd love to hear your comments/opinions on any of the above places as well as any suggestions for others. I was also thinking about Veselka because they serve pelmeni.
I miss NY and its fabulous food! Thanks in advance.
Susan, sorry you never got a response! For the next visit to NY with your manti-loving girls, go to Turkish Kitchen. I loved eating manti all over Turkey and in one funny experience was invited into a kitchen in Goreme to make the dish myself, and while it was always good (and of course thoroughly authentic), I have to say Turkish Kitchen's rendition is what I dream of. The dumplings are made with beef instead of lamb (not sure why) but the sauce is what matters, and TK's is divine. More of a cream sauce than pure yogurt with garlic & red pepper. It works. It's not cheap at $16, but servings are generous. It's a beautiful restaurant as well. Hope you were able to find some on this trip!
Turkish Manti are different from Uzbek ones, the latter being somewhat closer to Chinese dumplings and not served with a yogurt sauce.
You'll find plenty of Pelmeni & Borscht in Brighton Beach. Also, though I haven't been yet, Kashkar, a Uighur place, might have the closest cuisine to what you're talking about, especially since, I believe Kazakhstan borders Xinxiang province.
And then there are plenty of Uzbek (Bukharian Jewish) places in Rego Park, Queens.
though what i'm about to say probably belongs on the outer borough boards, i'll include it here for the sake of directly answering your question, susan:
manhattan's not really a good place for the food you're seeking. there used to be a good kosher uzbeki joint called gan eden in the diamond district, but it has since moved to queens blvd in forest hills, queens. i have not been to the queens location, but my barber, who is a bukharan jew from uzbekistan, thinks that it is the best uzbeki restaurant in the entire region right now.
peter is right - the forest hills and rego park neighborhoods are a good destination for central asian food, mainly kosher uzbeki. there used to be a tajik restaurant in the nabe but it closed down; i'm not sure if there are any others in queens at this time, tho i have heard of a tajik place called dushanbe in brooklyn. and as far as i know, there are no kazakh restaurants in the entire city. but i've definitely had some good manti, lagman, lamb kebabs, and goshgeejda (samsa) turnovers in the forest hills/rego park area.
i've actually been to this uighur place in brighton beach that peter mentioned. while i've never eaten kazakh food per se, i'm assuming that much of the food in that central asian region is similar, so yeah, cafe kashkar might be a good bet for what you're seeking. unlike most of the other central asian eateries in the city, it's halal muslim and thus the food preparation and taste is a little bit different than the kosher ones. anyhow, i enjoyed the food at kashkar on my one visit there, although that was at least 2 years ago. incidentally, the restaurant is in a heavily russian neighborhood (including many expats from throughout the former soviet union), so you'll likely be able to find what you need just by walking around the nabe and stopping in the various cafes, take-out shops, and so forth.
Thanks, all, for the great suggestions. We're now back home in San Diego, but will save the restaurant names for our next trip to NYC. When we were in the city in August, we were staying a few blocks away from Sip Sak, a Turkish restaurant on 1st (or is it 2nd?) around 51st, so we sauntered by and found that they were serving manti. It was good but very different from Kazakh manti. They were tiny little manti, not the bigger, more meaty and delicate ones that we had in Kazakhstan. Still, it satisfied the craving for the most part.
Can't wait to try the other places on our next visit, especially the one that serves lagman, another favorite for our girls. Now, if we can only find a place that serves the Kazakh national dish - called bishparmak - but unfortunately, it's usually made with horse meat. When we were in Kazakhstan, our translator's babushka invited us to their house, and out of respect for American tastes, made it with beef, and it was delicious.
I really appreciate all the suggestions and ongoing discussion of other Central Asian and Eastern European restaurants. Makes me want to book a flight SOON!
Again, many thanks,