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Salute vs. Cheburechnaya?

I am a huge fan of Cheburechnaya (Uzbek/Bukharian meat fest in Rego Park). I have read a lot about Salute, and have tried to go there on two occasions but have not succeeded - both times it was packed, and the staff was less than courteous and was not willing to even tell us how long we would have to wait for a table. I have half a mind to give up - Cheburechnaya rocks my world, I've never had a problem getting a table (it's huge), and the servers know me at this point and practically bring out the lamb testicles before I have to ask for them. But there's still a lingering doubt in my mind- am I missing out on something incredible at Salute? Do I owe it to myself to give it another chance?

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  1. Bag them both and head for ARZU on North side of Queens Blvd. & 67th Road...the skewers were perfect and it seemed like every table was plunging a fork into a steamer full of meat dumplings.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Mike R.

      Do you happen to know if Arzu is kosher?

    2. Benny,
      I've been to Salut on far more occasions than I have Cheburechnaya, and I completely concur with your experience at both places. Cheburechnaya is far more open, friendlier, plus, let's face it, they have lamb testicles.
      I would vouche for the food at Salut, specifically the lagman, the kebabs, breads and the soft, dill-dusted fries. Plus, if you go there in the early afternoon, you might be lucky enough to catch some old Soviet block cartoons on the tube. If, for no other reason than to establish a basis for comparison, I would recommend that you give in to your lingering doubts and give it another shot. I posted not so long ago about having been snubbed at nearby Arzu, but I have every intention of going back and trying again. It's all about the food.

      12 Replies
      1. re: Polecat

        Well, we finally tried Arzu last night (as I mentioned before, we have been to Cheburechnaya many times, but nowhere else). I have to say, I could not detect an appreciable difference in terms of food quality, preparation, or price. Lagman was a little more meaty than Cheburechnaya's, but as a result, more greasy (which is a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it). The bread was the same as at Cheburechnaya. Meat samsa seemed basically the same - the meat may have been a little tastier at Arzu, but the rib samsa at Cheb is better than the regular meat samsa anyway. The manty (steamed meat dumplings) were really nice (and i don't think you can get those at Cheb), but had the same filling as the samsa. As for the kebabs- we had lamb ribs, chicken with bone, and veal liver. The lamb ribs at Cheburechnaya have more meat on them, and they give you more ribs; the chicken with bone at Arzu was spiced a little more heavily and perhaps a bit more juicy, but I've never had a problem with the boneless chicken at Cheburechnaya. The veal liver at Arzu was better- cooked perfectly, crispy on the outside creamy on the inside, with a couple of pieces of fat in between the chunks of liver- but again, they give you more meat at Cheburechnaya, and I think the price is basically the same. The fries at Cheburechnaya, with the minced garlic, are better. The menu at Cheburechnaya is also considerably more extensive, including organ meats (brains, heart, testicles) that Arzu doesn't offer, as well as appetizers like babaganoush. Cheburechnaya also has a slightly nicer dining space (tv sets blaring Russian music videos, the open grill where the cooks fling skewers of hot meat over to the scurrying waitresses). Not to mention that I still find the Cheburechnaya staff to be a little bit more friendly (read: less surly).
        So, for my money, I'm still going to frequent Cheburechnaya, unless someone tells me that I missed something at Arzu that will radically change my life. (But I should add that both of these restaurants have a special place in my heart- we only eat kosher meat, and live in Astoria where kosher meat is non-existant, so these Bukharian places fill a much-needed void, and then some. Even in Manhattan and other parts of Queens and Brooklyn, where kosher meat restaurants abound, they are often very expensive and quite bad- so Cheburechnaya, Arzu, and their ilk are very special places.).

        1. re: bennyt

          Since you seem to make it out there often, perhaps you might want to check out these other similar restaurants (and post your opinions). I'm assuming they're all kosher, but it's up to you to verify.

          Tandoori Bukharian Bakery
          99-04 63rd Rd.

          102-03A Queens Boulevard

          Gan Eden
          102-11 Queens Blvd
          (718) 459-8800

          64-47 108th St
          (718) 275-2220

          1. re: Joe MacBu

            Shalom was great. Their salmon kebabs were as tender and flavorful as anything available at Cheburechnaya or Salut. Alas, it's no more, having been replaced by another business, or so it seems from the vastly different name on the sign. This particular storefront has gone through multiple changes in recent years, having been Beautiful Bukhara prior to its' incarnation as Shalom. To add to your list, there is the somewhat forbidding King David Restaurant, directly across Queens Blvd from Arzu, which I'm guessing is also of the Central Asian variety.

            1. re: Joe MacBu

              Fantastic! Thanks so much for posting this. I will definitely check out those other places (and perhaps the "somewhat forbidding" King David as well- it really does look like a fortress right there on Queens Blvd, doesn't it?). Will report back.

              1. re: bennyt

                hope you survive! awaiting details . . . something tells me its more of a banquet place [kind of like Da Mikael (sp?)] or even Number 1 Restaurant.

              2. re: Joe MacBu

                I had lunch at Tandoori Bukharian on Sunday. Overall, everything was decent to good, but a notch below what I've had at Cheburechnaya. The lula kabab was not as moist and buttery; the plov was underseasoned a bit with dryish chunks of meat. The samsa was larger with a more generous lamb filling than at Cheburechnaya and the borscht (with meat) was quite good. The manty looked very plump, though we (unfortunately) did not order any.

                For those who care, this place is definately Kosher.

              3. re: bennyt

                I've been to both, but I'm a bigger fan of Arzu. Cheburechnaya is good for grilled meats, and Arzu is good at Uighur specialties like lagman and manti. I care for the latter, hence the preference, grilled meat-wise places in Brighton Beach put both places to shame - you get twice as much and better quality meat there.

                1. re: welle

                  Welle, not to get too off-topic here, but WHICH places in Brighton Beach, and are they (or any of them) kosher?!? Just a guess, but if they're not kosher, that might account for better quality and quantity/price -- not that it would help me, bcs I, too, am kosher.

                  1. re: fmogul

                    The place I know that has skewered meat is Eastern Feast - big juicy chunks of lamb. Not sure if they're kosher, however, I'm pretty sure many places in BB have at least similar portions.

                2. re: bennyt

                  Just want to amend this - we went to Cheburchnaya earlier in the week, and manty was, in fact, on the menu, and in my opinion, they were better than the manty at Arzu.

                  1. re: bigjeff

                    63-42 108th Street. Closest train is probably the 63rd Road R, V or G stop.
                    There's also a very good Russian/Bukharan/Central Asian food market on the same block. Enjoy.

                3. I *think* that Zhemchuzhina (which means "pearl") replaced Shalom. I've been to Zhemchuzhina and Salut and far preferred Zhemchuzhina. What I particularly remember is the soups--their borscht and a beef stew with homemade noodles were both delish. And the waitress was very sweet.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: extrajos

                    Is there a second for Zhemchuzhina? I'm taking some people out for dinner Thursday, and am deciding which to go to: Salut, Zhemchuzhina (formerly Shalom's), or Cheburechnaya.
                    Is Zhemchuzhina BYOB like Shalom's was?
                    Also, does anyone know if plov has cilantro in it? I'm one of those people who can't eat cilantro (it's like biting tin foil to me), but heard that the plov is great, although you have to order in advance. But if there's cilantro, I'm screwed. Anyone know how ot say no cilantro in Russian?

                    1. re: hreisig

                      I don't know about Zhemchuzhina, but Cheburechnaya is definitely BYOB and it's a better option than Salute in that you should have no problem getting a table. The owner (Bentzion or Tzion, I think his name is) definitely speaks English, so you can ask him about cilantro.

                      1. re: bennyt

                        I went with family to Zhemchuzhina (formerly Shalom, with same phone number) last night and had a wonderful time. We got there at 7, and were alone until others starting coming in at 8. Waitress who spoke English was super friendly. She happily put wine in fridge to cool off a bit - its BYOB, but kosher wines only (we found a nice aussie syrah by Becketts Flats), washed off some plums my aunt brought in for dessert and helped make suggestions. The other waitress was just as nice, but only spoke a few words of English.
                        Everything was outstanding, and I highly recommend trying the samsa (similar to samosa), norni (?) a cold pasta dish with bits of roast beef and lots of coriander seed, the lamb rib kabobs, and the sweetbreads. Also get some of the excellent cabbage salad and tomatoes and onions, which have a very light but beautifully spicy dressing to cut through the rich meats. All the food was delicious, very inexpensive, and I'm going back soon to try what I didn't have room for.
                        A great food trip! Thanks everyone!

                        1. re: hreisig

                          I'm guessing that, based on your description, although perhaps under new ownership, they retained their kitchen and waitstaff. Shalom also served excellent food, and the waitress was very friendly and helpful, the service being head and shoulders above places like Salute and Arzu. This is very good news. Thanks for the report.

                      2. re: hreisig

                        I had dinner at Zhemchuzhina tonight. Overall, it was not as good as Cheburechnaya, Salute or Tandoori. The lamb filling in the manti (dumplings) was very gristly. The lulya kabab was a bit dry. The Georgian style soup of lamb and barley needed much more salt. A cabbage salad was refreshingly sour and made a good accompaniment to the meats. Chebureks were pretty good but the plov was nothing special.

                        This is however, the friendliest Uzbek place I've been to. The waitress spoke perfect English and was very accommodating. She even offered to split the soup into individual bowls for each diner.

                        We took along a bottle of kosher wine. When I asked if we were allowed to bring our own, the waitress said yes, but that we had to keep the bottle on the floor since it was not allowed to be on the table. That was a first for me.

                    2. Of the Rego Park restaurants mentioned in this thread, which are easiest to reach with public transportation?

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: lucybobo

                        Arzu and Cheburechnaya for me. For the former - 67th ave stop (get in front of the train from Manhattan and get out Northern side of Queens blvd.), for latter, 63rd dr. stop, south side of Q. blvd. walk 1-2 blocks south on 63rd drive.

                        1. re: welle

                          There was a little blurb about Cheburechnaya in the latest "Cheap Eats" issue of TimeOut New York (p. 23). The reviewer mentioned the lagman and the samsas as highlights, but said nothing about the grilled meat! I wrote a scathing letter to the editor (how could they not mention lamb testicles?!). We'll see if it makes it into the magazine.

                        2. re: lucybobo

                          Why has no one mentioned Vostok?? I don't know if it's kosher, I suspect not but could be wrong, but it's really fantastic. Close to public transportation, less than a block from the station.

                            1. re: bennyt

                              Benny, check out this thread, esp SteveR's post....I was with that group. We have gone twice (so far) and the food has been fantastic. Sofia has a real talent for grilled meats, the salads are great, the manti and samsa are great...really everything was very good, and we ate an obscene amount. The staff are great. Definitely a place to go with a group of people. Oddly enough both times we went they were not exactly open, the first time they were renovating, and the second time it was perhaps a jewish holiday...in any case, they accomodated us and we had a great time. Again, not at all sure if it's kosher, I suspect not. Can't wait to go back.

                        3. Which is the place that has music? I was somewhere next to what once was Uzbek Cultural Center, they had live music, a dancing fiddler with a yarmulkah, etc.

                          I want to plan a big blowout for my b'day.

                          By the way, I'm a Salute fan.

                          1. Persistence pays off.

                            My second attempt to be served at Arzu - my first having consisted of being brushed off and ignored by the waitress - was successful and then some. Like last time, I went in there solo, got a menu in record time, and was able to order within 5 minutes of arriving. The waitress even returned a smile at one point, which puts me way ahead of the game. I ordered a few items off of the ridiculously cheap menu - lagman, 5 manti, a chicken kebab, a quarter loaf of round bread and some black tea (pre-tip total was 15 bucks).

                            Just prior to polishing off my meal, I spotted two diners, a couple of Russian regulars who were drinking vodka out of a paper bag, motioning me to join them. We drank, ate, and spoke of many things: food, love, fatherhood, the relative merits and demerits of McDonalds ("what are you talking about ‘awful’ - it's Kosher!", yelled Alex, one of my dining companions) and Boston's North End/Little Italy (don't ask me how that one slipped in there).

                            My take on Arzu is that the food is good, solid, stick-to-your-ribs, homemade fare, well worth repeated trips. The manti were chock full of meat, the kebabs succulent, the lagman noodles more firm than those I've sample in other places. Call me crazy, but, having been to Salute several times - although not for at least 2 or 3 years - I didn't find there to be any discernible difference in food quality. Perhaps repeat visits will tip the scales in one direction or another, but, right now, I would recommend both equally.

                            For what it's worth, Alex, having also dined at Salute and Cheburechnaya, declared, hands down, Arzu to be the best among the three.

                            He'll also go to the mat for McDonald's, but that's another story.

                            21 Replies
                            1. re: Polecat

                              Bravo! LOL on vodka sharing - Russians like drinking in troikas. I think it's because it's just the right amount of alcohol per person...

                              1. re: welle

                                Has anybody tried the "forbidding-looking" (I think an earlier post used that term) King David restaurant on Queens Blvd.? Slightly (ok, very) curious....

                                My vote is for Cheburechnaya over Arzu, anyway (haven't been to Salute yet); I refer you to my post above. Although they got their liquor license, apparently, and now there is some kind of "corkage fee" if you bring your own b. The "Baltica" Russian beer wasn't so cheap and wans't so good (there was a very interesting opening-mechanism on the bottle though).


                                1. re: bennyt

                                  "Has anybody tried the "forbidding-looking" (I think an earlier post used that term) King David restaurant on Queens Blvd.? Slightly (ok, very) curious...."

                                  Having walked past the place literally hundreds of times, not only have I not ventured in - I've never seen anyone go in or go out. Perhaps, like the Black Lodge in David Lynch's Twin Peaks, you enter at your own peril and never leave. Serious points for anyone who enters the foyer.

                                  1. re: Polecat

                                    I've passed King David several thousand times myself and have only seen a few people come out - usually for a cigarette break, or else a frightened American. I think the place is more Russian restaurant a la Brighton Beach (music and booze more important than the food). If you risk it, please let the group know what's actually going on in there! In the meantime, my family orders from salute when we've got a family affair and the food's phenomenal. Slightly better than the delicious goodies I got from Arzu tonight after failing my mission to get sushi post Mickey's departure from the 'hood.

                                    1. re: LittleYodash

                                      Your post reminded me of a long-standing question I've had- I've heard that there are Bukharian/Uzbek places in Brighton Beach (or elsewhere in Brooklyn?) similar to Cheburechnaya/Arzu/Salute. Since I'm in Astoria, Rego Park is a much more convenient option. But is there anything earth-shattering (and kosher) in Brooklyn that I should know about on this front?

                                      1. re: bennyt

                                        There's a ton of stuff in Brooklyn that's pretty good, but I certainly wouldn't shlep all the way out there for this stuff. And if you do ever shlep to Brooklyn for anything at a "Russian Restaurant" that has singing and dancing, you'll likely want to avoid the food altogether. And while you're in the neighborhood (Rego Park) next time, grab some babaganoush to go from Off the Grill -- that place has some amazing salads and the falafel is to die for.

                                        1. re: LittleYodash

                                          Perhaps you mean, "On the Grill" ('Al ha-Esh) on Queens Blvd.?

                                          1. re: bennyt

                                            "Off the Grill," "On the Grill," -- whatever it's called, it's darned good!

                                            1. re: LittleYodash

                                              I'll cast my vote for Tandoori Bukharian Bakery. Their Samsa is to die for and plov is also very good. However, they quickly run out of samsa, so go there early.

                                              1. re: Fastov

                                                Does anybody happen to know if the "pilaf" dish at Cheburechnaya is the same thing as "plov"?

                                                1. re: bennyt

                                                  I can actually answer this for myself, having gone to Cheburechnaya last night and observed that the Cyrillic characters on the menu definitely say "plov." But at any rate, I found the plov to be disappointing - greasy fried rice with a couple of hunks of fairly dry brisket. I am quick to add, however, that everything else we ordered was fantastic, as always. The lulya kebabs were especially juicy and well-seasoned (we also had veal sweetbreads, lamb testicles, lamb ribs, boneless chicken, veal heart, and veal liver- all perfectly grilled, as per usual).

                                                  1. re: bennyt

                                                    So, at long last, I am returning to this thread. I have some company in town today, and I think tonight I will take them to one of the meat-tastic Bukharian places in Rego Park. As I've said before, my standby has been Cheburchnaya, but I want to try something different. I'm going to go with Salut, since I've already been to Arzu and concluded that Cheburech is superior.
                                                    Anybody have any further thoughts on this?

                                                    1. re: bennyt

                                                      I love Salut for their food. Dont expect service or a fancy atmosphere. But the lula kebab and hummus are awesome. the chicken kebab (boneless) is good too. and love the bread.

                                                      1. re: bennyt

                                                        Well, Bennyt, what'd you find, and what'd you decide? As one of many pondering these eternal questions, I am eager to hear your report!

                                                        1. re: fmogul

                                                          What I found was that, for the third time in three attempts, I showed up at Salute and was denied. This time, I found a restaurant of empty tables, and was told that they were all "reserved." I'm giving up on trying to go there on a Saturday night (perhaps will try a weeknight sometime). We ended up at the old standby, Cheburechnaya. Actually, it was better than ever (and that's saying a lot, because I'm a huge fan). The lulya kebabs were incredibly juicy, as was the boneless chicken. For the first time I tried he borscht, which had a lovely fist-sized ball of tender meat at the bottom. Also, we were brought plates of pickled veggies and peppers in tomato sauce before dinner, and plates of watermelon after - nice touches that are new, from what I can tell. So all in all, Cheburechnaya was a fine experience, as always.

                                                          1. re: fmogul

                                                            Also, I forgot to mention, after being negged at Salut, we tried to go to Zhemchuzhina on 108th St., but were unable to find it - does it still exist?

                                                            1. re: bennyt

                                                              What are those free pickled things? Looked like beets but had pulp and tiny seeds inside, almost like a fig.....

                                                              1. re: EricMM

                                                                They are baby eggplants. I suspected as much, and when I asked it was confirmed. They're pretty great, right?

                                                                1. re: bennyt

                                                                  Those baby eggplant pickles are pretty great.

                                                                  made my first visit to cheburechnaya sat night. Was very happy with it. Great place to go with a big group, esp if you have kids (we had 9 people, including 4 kids--it's a very kid friendly place) if you have kids, i would def choose it over salut.

                                                                  i thought the salads were the weakest part--the best was the free cabbage salad and the pickles they give you, but the israeli salad was completely tasteless and the carrot salad was okay but not nearly as good as at salut or the place in the shopping center on QB (arzu?)
                                                                  The lagman was excellent, def one of the best i've had, and the manti and chebureki were also good.
                                                                  kebabs rocked--esp the sea bass, the lamb rib, and the veal sweetbreads. all the kebabs were good, but i would go back just to have the sweetbreads. amazing, and at about a quarter or less of the price you would pay in manhattan for a sweetbread dish.
                                                                  green plov was okay--nothing special.
                                                                  fries with garlic were good, but i've had better a georgian places in bklyn.
                                                                  loved the free watermelon slices for dessert, the perfect end to the meal.

                                                                  Though i live in brooklyn, i chose cheburechnaya over vostok (which I would also love to try) after reading about fistfights and broken glass at vostok on sat nights. Figure that a place like that is probably less child-friendly, tho perhaps more interesting!

                                                                  1. re: missmasala

                                                                    Thanks for the ID.....yes, the eggplant pickles are great, although I am the only one in my family to think so. And I fully agree that the sweetbreads are the best thing I've tried from them...and I have them all to myself, as my family is horrified by them....

                                                                    1. re: EricMM

                                                                      yep yep, I second the sweetbreads. Incredibly juicy, just a tad a gamey. I often make a little sweetbreads sandwich with a hunk the warm bread (the big round loaf, not the cracker bread), and the red hot sauce. Sometimes I use the lamb testicles instead.

                                                                      Anyone ever tried the calf brains kebab?

                                                                      I agree with missmasala's assessment of the plov- nothing special at all, essentially greasy rice. I had much better plov at one of the other places (I think it was Arzu), where they served it with bigger pieces of meat.

                                                                      At any rate, I am curious to see how the brooklyn places such as Vostok stack up.