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Blown away at Bukhara

A Kensington-dwelling friend invited me to join her for dinner last night at Bukhara. I'd had Indian food the night before, but decided to join her anyhow, as I'd not tried this place yet.

My expectations were not high. Aside from a trip to Brick Lane while vacationing in England, most of my Indian food experience had come from East 6th street. Limited? Perhaps. As a lifelong Brooklyn resident, I never could face the trip out to Queens. Now I feel as though I don't have to.

We started off with chicken daal, rice, and chickpeas. The daal was spicy in the best possible way - it had as much flavor as it did heat, which was a pleasant surprise. The chicken was tender, a nice change from the rubber poultry that I've had in the past. The chickpeas were life changing. The server sprinkled fresh cilantro over them before bringing them to our table, which just added to the flavor explosion in my mouth. I plan to go back and try the black chickpeas as well as the white, even though it'll be difficult to ever pass these up again. They were sensational. The nan was fresh out of the oven, fluffy, with just the right amount of butter. (It definitely helped to put the fire out from the chicken!)

We ended off the meal with a "sweet" that tasted like candied ginger or another fruit mixed with almonds (also delicious). I'm not sure what it was, we were offered it and accepted and were game to try anything after the entrees.

I could not believe how different this meal was from every other Indian meal I've ever had. I was totally blown away, and wanted to share that with the class. It's certainly the best Indian food I've ever had in the city - can't say if it's THE best (maybe if I could ever convince myself that Jackson Heights is worth the trip I could compare), but I will say that it's a damn sight better than any other Indian restaurants I've tried.

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  1. great report. Now, which restaurant called Bukhara are you talking about? I think there may be several with that name on Coney Island Ave (and Im assuming its there). Theres been good cooking at one or another of the places out there from time to time

    5 Replies
    1. re: jen kalb

      It's the Bukhara on CIA and Cortelyou with the big green awning.

      1. re: Offbalance

        The other Bukhara (near the Makki Mosque) is gone, but BUKHARI remains on the block.

        What were the prices like in the "fancy" Bukhara?

        1. re: Mike R.

          $4 for small veg and $5 for small meat portions. I forget the prices for the larger portions. It was also $4 for rice. They have excellent chickpeas! Like butter!

        2. re: Offbalance

          A quick Google Search turns up a "Bukhara" at 785 Coney Island Ave, which is between Cortelyou and Dorchester.

          1. re: Peter

            Am I the only person who thinks $4 for rice is highway robbery? Why not just go to Jammun or one of the other Bangladeshi eateries?

      2. Are these Indian, or Bangladeshi, or possibly even Pakistani? Lots of decent Bangladeshi cuisine (though not as mind-blowing as you've described) at the Church Ave. stop on the F.

        4 Replies
        1. re: lambretta76

          None of the Coney Island Ave restaurants are Indian, as far as I know. The entire strip is Pakistanian & Bangladeshi, with some Afganistanian thrown in. Actually, its basically the same residential neighborhood as Church Ave/McDonald Ave., since Coney Island Ave is the equivalent of E.11th St and McDonald Ave is the equivalent of E.1st St. Much of the residential neighborhood lies between the two and is largely Muslim, with mosques dotting the landscape.

          1. re: Steve R

            I honestly didn't pay attention to the sign outside of the name, the friend who invited me told me that it was "Indian food," and it seemed similar enough to me. The more important point, at least to me, is that it's GOOD food - flavorful, tasty, and worth a visit. (Also, my East 6th standard for Indian for many years was run by Pakistani Muslims - is it still Indian food then?)

          2. re: lambretta76

            The business owners on CIA are from the Punjab (muslim part is in Pakistan)and Bangladesh. They are muslims, not hindus. A lot of the signs are in Urdu, the language of the Punjab. "Bukhara" is in Pakistan I think, and sounds like Punjab more than Bangladeshi but its hard to draw a conclusion from the name alone. These areas WERE all part of an Indian common culture for centuries until partition, the most meaningful distinction is religion and the different food customs of the groups. For example, in all the Muslim areas of the subcontinent, meat dishes like haleem, nihari, korma and various kebabs are popular. My understanding is that the 6th St restaraunteurs are bangadeshis (that used to be e. pakistan), but they, along with most "indian" restaraunteurs were offering generic north indian/punjabi non-veg style cooking.

            1. re: jen kalb

              Bukhara is in Uzbekistan. They're clearly trying to name it after the world famous restaurant of the same name which serves Mughlai cuisine in Delhi, India.

          3. What? I used to live right there and never realized there was a treasure to be discovered (though I did visit Medina occasionally). Did this open recently? Can you describe the location - is it exactly on CIA and cortelyou? I may have to make a trip back to Kensington now.

            1 Reply
            1. re: zorgclyde

              The "fancy" Bukhara is on the southbound side of CIA, near Cortelyou. It is not the storefront steam-table look and is, like Nawab near Avenue H, a more sit-down service, family-style place.

            2. Just to continue the Coney Island Ave discussion...

              we stopped by Pakisa (spelling?) and took out a chick pea dish, some samosas & fresh naan to complement a home cooked dinner at a friend's house last night. We were all impressed with the quality of all 3. It's on the Ocean Pkway side of CIA and I think a block or so north of Ave H (away from Coney Island).

              6 Replies
                1. re: Mike R.

                  Yep, passed it today and took note. Pakiza, just off the corner of Foster on CIA.

                  1. re: Steve R

                    While no one really describes them in detail, it seems like a whole new crop of "white-light" (heavy on the fluorescent) "sweets" shops have opened in the past six months. There's the one which replaced Bukhara (nest to Bukhari) and the Paki Sweets which IIRC, took over from Bukhara Sweets. Further up the road, there's Shandar. Needless to say, gotta get back out there, especially where there is also a "grill" involved.

                    Anyone have recs from these goodie places? It's kinda like going to eat at Burger King and then over to Baskin-Robbins for dessert.

                    1. re: Mike R.

                      I just ate at Bukhari, at 1095 Coney Island Avenue. I am confused about which place the OP was talking about (fancy or non fancy Bukhara? I don't know...) In any case, I really enjoyed Bukhari, which is not fancy, has a steam table, and does a very brisk business.

                      But to your question, I walked down just a couple store fronts to Gourmet Sweets (1107 Coney Island Ave) and sampled a few mithai. . They were excellent! Obviously fresh and homemade, not too sweet. Try the almond burfi in particular. I also liked the pistachio chumchum, although I think it might not be to everyone's taste.

                      The whole story:

                      http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkint...

                      1. re: Jackaroo

                        We just moved to Ditmas Park and have begun exploring some of the spots on and near CIA. We haven't been to Bukhara or Bukhari yet, but will definitely check it out. However, we have been to Pakiza a couple of times and it is excellent! Each dish we've tried from the steam table has had its own intense and distinctive spicing, and all of the meat has been tender and flavorful. We highly recommend the haleem, the goat curry, and the spinach dish, and make sure you order the delicious freshly made roti (but avoid the naan). If you're in the area, you can also pop into Gyro King, which is around the corner on Foster. They have really good kebabs and shwarma. And the falafel at Famous Pita at Newkirk and CIA is some of the crispiest and well-spiced falafel I've had in NYC, plus they have great hot sauce and a full complement of Israeli salads to pack your pita with. It's expensive (as far as falafel goes) but worth it. I'll continue to post more recommendations as we eat through that strip.

                        1. re: westminster

                          I have to second the recommendation on Gyro King. What an amazing place. The freshest and most delicious schwarma ever, and at reasonable prices. I have no idea why this place is still a secret. I will definitely try Pakiza soon, didn't realize it was recommended and it's close to home for me!

                          I tried Famous Pita recently, and unfortunately the whole experience was confusing, chaotic, loud, and generally unpleasant. And the bill was enormous. I don't know that I'm rushing back anytime soon.

              1. $4 for rice? That's robbery! Why not just go to MacDonald and Church Ave. It's practically Sylhet over there and Jammun is pretty good.