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Russian / Uzbek Shirin Cafe Manalapan NJ

Stopped in here for take out last week.
It is a cozy cafe.
They do serve lunch and dinner.
It is located in the Design Center on Rt 9 across from Konbu.


This was is wonderful local surprise!
Keep in mind, everything was made to order, I only did some quick bites, not a full meal, and it did take about 20 minutes for the food to be ready.

Ordered a few items for take out
Fried Chuchvara - These are very small, meat filled, delicious morsels.
Almost like a fried tortellini.

Samsa with Pumpkin - Amazing! Puffed Pastry stuffed with pumpkin, maybe a hint of cumin spice, not sure.

Hachapuri - Amazing! Puffed Pastry with a goat cheese like flavor and greens. Wonderful!

If you have ever eaten a Russian dinner feast, you know that the food is good, they never stop bringing more food, BYOB means Vodka, and the presentation is impeccable.
They have the option at this restaurant for private parties as well but seems to be a much quieter and cozy option then the other Russian choices in the area.
The hosts here were wonderful and helpful!

In my opinion worth checking out!

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  1. Sounds good. Have not been aware of any local Russian places since Everest in Red Bank closed years ago.

    How does BYOB mean Vodka?

    1. Shabby, because of your glowing review of Shirin, my husband and I wnet yesterday! All I can say say, is THANKS SO MUCH!! Was this place great or what! We ordered for an appetizer to share the boiled Chuchvara (which are dumplins) 12 little pieces that will met in your mouth. You will tatse all the fresh dill and delicious scallions! It was a keeper!

      For lunch I had a the skewer of lamsb shish kebab and my husband had the pork shish kabab. It was marinated in such a great mariande and served over delcious sweet onions and came with sliced, lightly fried potatoes.

      They make everything to order, so be prepared for some of the most incredible food. We are looking to going baback over the weekend with some friends.

      Oue waitress, Svetlana was great, too. Paced everything, very sweet, and explained anything we may have not known.

      Also, we ordered their bread. SO good! Almost tatse like the Greek Easter bread minus the 4 sticks of butter (hee hee)


      So, listen to shabby the place is really worth it! I am definately going back!

      1. You're kind. No worries.
        Check out the food, it is good.

        1. So, I went AGAIN on Thursday night with my husband and I tell you, the place is such a huge hit in our book! This time we tried a lot of things (so many, we had dinner again last night from all the leftovers!!)

          We had the Armenian salad to start...so tasty and fresh herbs, which I find those herbs in every dish!! Uzbek bread...WOW, taste great! Then we had pirogis, samsa with meat (like a puff pastry oozing with falvor), an order of their delish boiled dumplings, a lamb shish kebab again, because it was just SO good last time, and an order of manti.

          Our server was Svetlana again and she was so delighted to see us back! She really is helpful with the menu if you are not sure. I recently told my neighbors, who never had Russian or Uzbek food, so I told them many things were similar to Greek restaurants (which they love!) they went last week and were amazed at how great eveything was!!

          I just really hope this place makes it. It truely is like someone's grandmother cooking everything to order. Give it a try...I promise you will love it!! We are taking my in laws next week!


          Thanks again, shabby!!!

          3 Replies
          1. re: Angelina

            Oh yes...for all this it came to with tax, not tip $50.00. Like I said, we had dinner again form all this food last night...yum!

            1. re: Angelina

              One thing I just noticed (Duh...) about the online menu is that every menu entry is hyperlinked to a photo of that dish. More establishments ought to make that effort...

            2. re: Angelina

              Glad you are happy -
              Happy to share!

            3. we went to this place last night for dinner.

              I have to say, this has to be NJ's most hidden gem.

              It was one of the best meals we had in a WHILE. We ordered tons of food, as I like to sample a little bit when going to new places like this.

              Started with the bread. - Awesome.

              Then ordered 2 apps, Chuchvara (Dumplings) ( 12pc.)....boiled.
              and Hachapuri (puff pastry with three cheeses and greens)

              our mains were
              Quail with meat $13.95
              two lamb stuffed birds prepared on the charcoal

              and Chicken Shish for my fiance

              My quail was perfect. nice and toasted on the outside, juicy on the inside, fiance said even for simple chicken shish it was one of the best she's had.

              Then, they showed us desserts, We ordered 2. Honey cake, and Pecan cake and coffee.

              I have to say, we could of ordered only half of that food and it still be too much, and the price was 58$.

              Service was impeccable, seems like a husband/wife team. We spent a good 2 hours there, as it seems everything is definitely made to order, this is a plus for me, but if you are in a quick hurry, it's something to take into consideration.

              I have to say it's my second favorite restaurant, food wise, in NJ, second to Nicholas. Really.

              2 Replies
              1. re: RPMcMurphy

                Hidden gem? I'm not so sure (the hidden part, that is). I also went last night for dinner. I got there about 6pm, and there were like a dozen people waiting out in the parking lot to be seated. As I was by myself I really did not want to occupy a table when the place was that busy, so I ended up going to Oasis down in Freehold. Will have to get back to Shirin during the week sometime...

                1. re: equal_Mark

                  Ah, you had some bad timing is all. We got there at 7:30 I think, and they were re-arranging the tables and said a large party booked the whole restaurant and JUST left...just had to wait 2 minutes for them to arrange the tables back, then it was just the two of us until we left, no other customers until we left at 9:30ish.

              2. Finally made it to Shirin last night, and was quite impressed. After being seated noticed the table next to mine was speaking Russian. Good sign...

                The place is small, clean and nicely appointed (OK, the continuous droning of Russian pop videos was a bit much). Started with the King's Herring which was served with thin sliced lemons and red onions and sprinkled with dill. Fresh and flavorful. I was going to try the borscht, but as it was rather warm out I opted not to. I ordered the Lamb Shish Kebab which was served on an arm length skewer, which added a bit of logistical planning to deal with without causing possible injury to other diners... :-) The lamb was tender and flavorful and was served with sauteed onions and a small container of "shish kebab sauce" which was sort of a tangy plumb chutney. Both the herring and lamb were served with oven roasted potatoes with a lot of garlic and dill.

                All in all, the food was good and I'll certainly be back to explore the menu further...

                13 Replies
                1. re: equal_Mark

                  The pop videos are indeed interesting! (but I kinda like it....in a strange way!) Kinda like the happy birthday song at Origin in Somerville haha.

                  Glad you liked it.

                  1. re: RPMcMurphy

                    I want to thank Shabby for posting about this place. I had a phenomenal meal there this evening with my parents (both of whom speak Russian and are very familiar with the cuisine). Every item sampled was perfect while the service was friendly and accommodating. I hope to report in more detail when I have a chance. Please run, don't walk, to Shirin Cafe. My highest recommendation.

                    1. re: bgut1

                      Sincerely, enjoy sharing my adventures.
                      Happy to hear consistency prevailed, and your experience was positive!

                      1. re: bgut1

                        b. and shabby,

                        Mr. R. and I finally made it to Shirin a couple of weeks ago for lunch. Delicious! I will eventually do a more detailed write-up. However, here's the thing. There's a very good reason the food is so terrific. We were thrilled to discover that Shirin's owners are Albert and his wife, Marina, who owned Rendezvous, the Russian restaurant on Route 9 North. We used to go there for lunch occasionally and loved the food. Plus, they are the nicest people. They sold Rendezvous a couple of years ago. (The new owners changed the name to Crystal Palace.) I had no idea they'd opened Shirin right after that. Had I known, we'd have been there like a flash! Thanks to you, shabby, we can once again enjoy Albert and Marina's wonderful food.

                        1. re: RGR

                          R - It was a pleasure meeting Albert last night. He came over at the end of the meal, took a picture of our group and emailed it to me this morning. Kudos also go out to our waitress Svetlana who took very good care of us throughout the meal (though she mostly spoke with my parents in Russian). BTW, speaking of "Rendezvous" the rendezvous salad (julienned beets, carrots, cabbage, meat(?) and mayonnaise dressing - all mixed table side) was "off the hook"!! In fact everything sampled was fantasatic including the Uzbek Bread (hot and fresh), Samsa (w/meat), Manti, Chicken Tabaka, and Lamb Shish Kebab.

                          1. re: bgut1

                            That is great you enjoyed yourself, bgut! I just LOVE that place! I feel like I am at my friend's mother's kitchen when I go there. It really is "home cooking". That salad sounds great! I always get the Armenian salad. I have had all of the above what you ordered and really liked it.

                            I hope they do well there because I am a huge fan!

                            1. re: Angelina

                              Angelina - I see you you mean about being in your mother's kitchen. The dishes are so comforting and everything is hot, fresh and cooked ala minute. I too hope they succeed.

                              1. re: bgut1

                                I need to get here soon. Places like this and UTM provide flavors and comfort food that few places can emulate.

                            2. re: bgut1


                              Albert took our picture as well and sent it to me.

                              Rendezvous actually first opened as a Brazilian rodizio, which failed. When Albert and Marina (who, btw, speaks very little English) bought it, they turned the huge space into a Russian restaurant with a wide-ranging Russian/international menu and entertainment (band and dancing) on the weekend.

                              Shirin is the total antithesis -- small with adorable decor. The menu is also different, concentrating more on the cuisine of Uzbekistan, which is where Albert and Marina are from.

                              Svetlana was our waitress. She is, indeed, excellent!

                              Even though Shirin has been open for two years, I got the impression that they are struggling. So, we need to spread the word about this "hidden" gem!

                              1. re: RGR

                                R - I got the same feeling as well.

                                People - I agree with RGR that we must support these local restaurants. They are the life blood of our community.

                                BTW, I forgot to add that for all the food we received that evening inlcuding dessert and tea, the cost for our party of 3 was $79!!

                                1. re: bgut1

                                  After reading all the good reviews I checked out their website and will prolly do some take out this weekend.

                                  I am curious though - on their online menu it mentions a "Shirin banquet" that sounds to me like it may be a cross between a tasting menu and a real feast. Anyone know for sure or, better yet, ever try it?

                                  1. re: seal


                                    I'm making an educated guess that it's along the same lines as what they did at Rendezvous. Not a tasting menu, but a feast for large groups at a set per person price. I think it would be an excellent option for a Hound get-together.

                                    Mr. R. and I are going to have lunch at Shirin this afternoon. (I'm already drooling! lol) I'll ask Albert for the exact details and report back.

                                    1. re: seal

                                      As promised, I got the info re: the banquet. I was pretty much on target.

                                      It is a set menu which consists of the following: 8 cold appetizers and salads; 6 or 7* hot appetizers and main courses; a fruit plate and homemade pastries; mineral water, soda, homemade fruit drinks, coffee and tea.

                                      Costs are as follows: Saturday and Sunday - $49.99pp; Wednesday - Friday, $39.99pp*. That price does not include the Lamb Chops, which are on the $49.99 menu; however, there is the option to include them for the additional $10pp.

                                      Minimum for the banquet is 6 people.

                      2. Could not resist any longer. Everything sounds sooo good. Set a reservation for tonight.
                        Hope its good, I sacrificed a Delorenzo's sausage pizza for Shirin :))

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: tom246

                          It'll be worth it Tom! Please let us know what you think.

                          1. re: tom246


                            I suspect you will not miss that sausage pizza for one itty-bitty second! We got back a little while ago from another seriously delicious lunch at Shirin. We're totally hooked and are planning to make out way through the entire menu.

                            Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

                          2. After having dinner at Shirin Cafe last night, we fully concur with all the positive reports here. Everyone is warm and friendly and the food is delicious.
                            We shared everything, started with the Rendezvous Salad which was a large portion of mixed veggies and meat mixed tableside by Svetlana who was a great server all evening. She mixed that salad until every sliver of vegetable was dressed properly ;)

                            Also had the Samsa with meat which was a crispy pastry stuffed with meat. Yum
                            For DW and I the real test of Eastern European cuisine are the Pirogi. For us it defines the skill of the kitchen. These were just fantastic. Our gold standard for Pirogi is Krakowiak in South River. The taste of Shirin and Krakowiak are similar but Shirin's are even more tender and light. Could have had another order, they were that good.

                            During this time we were also enjoying the Uzbek bread which is like a cross between a bread roll and a bagel. Whatever, it is very good.

                            Entrees were Chicken Shish Kebab and lamb Shish Kebab. Both marinated in a yummy herbal mix, both very tender and flavorful. The chicken was cut with a fork it was that tender. The Kebabs came with a plate of ultra thin crispy potatoes.
                            Way too full to consider dessert, maybe next time. Delicious rustic food deserves a rustic wine and our 2005 Carlisle Zinfandel was perfect with the food.

                            Many more items on the menu to try, will be fun to keep coming back to explore the various cold and hot dishes. Many thank to Shabby for finding this gem which is actually pretty close to where we live, about 20 minutes or so.

                            PS: We also had our picture taken and e-mailed to us. Proud to say our mugs did not break the camera :)

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: tom246


                              Glad to hear you had an excellent experience at Shirin. Frankly, I would have been totally shocked if it had been otherwise. Too bad you didn't have room for dessert. Marina's pastries are terrific!

                              I really think we should do the banquet. Getting the required minimum of 6 should be easy.

                              1. re: RGR

                                tom246 - I'm so happy you enjoyed your meal as well. Seems like you had many of the same fantastic dishes my parents and I sampled the other night. While you and the Mrs. were there, we enjoyed another perfect meal at Drew's. I would post another report but it would seem somewhat redundant. We are off to Belford tonight so I need to go out and run a few miles to burn off all these calories. My regards to your better half.

                                1. re: bgut1

                                  RGR, Bgut, yes, Shirin was both delicious and very friendly.
                                  Bgut, Drews last night and Belford tonight. Does it get any better, life is good. We're off to a party tonight. Don't tell anyone, would rather be at Drews or Belford :) My best to Mrs B.

                                  1. re: tom246


                                    For us, this past week: Belford on Monday, Niko's Trapezi on Wednesday, and Shirin on Friday. Just as good! *big grin*

                                2. re: RGR

                                  Yes, we should do the banquet as a hound dinner. Count me and Mishypoo in!

                              2. We finally got around to trying Shirin for lunch today after all of these glowing reviews. Wow! I wish we hadn't waited so long. Everything was tasty, fresh and seemed "homemade".

                                We shared (and took some home) a rendevous salad. Then we tried the chicken soup with dumplings and the Mastava soup. Both were great. The chicken soup was a nice broth with fabulous meat dumplings but the Mastava (spicy uzbek soup with rice) was my favorite. It was a thicker soup with rice, meat and vegetables and was almost like a stew. Very well seasoned and very hearty you could have it as a main if you wanted and be very happy.

                                We then tried the Chuchvara dumplings, the Vareniki (pirogis) and the Cheburiki. Each was wonderful. I can't wait to return to try some of the entrees and the other soups, salads and appetizers. we finished by splitting a pirce of the honey cake and some Uzbek black tea which was terrific.

                                This place is a real find. We will be returning for sure.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Bossa_Nova

                                  Hey, Bossa_Nova,

                                  Glad to hear that you've become another Shirin fan! The food really *is* homemade and very fresh. When we were there yesterday, from my vantage point at our table, I could see Marina rolling out the dough for our meat-filled samsa. :-)

                                  I'm happy that you and MishyPoo are interested in doing a banquet. I will get the ball rolling soon, so stay tuned!

                                2. we finally made it to shirin cafe, and we loved it, too! i recommend the uzek bread, mmm.... it tasted a lot like a bialy. portions were generous, and everything was delicious reheated in the oven for lunch.

                                  1. We just had a family dinner here. Food is unbelievable! Probably the best lamb kebab I ever had. My wife had lamb chops – Chalahach – just amazing! It instantly became our favorite restaurant in NJ!

                                    1. We had friends coming over on Saturday and asked where they wanted to go. They asked for that "Russian place you guys really liked". Off to Shirn Cafe.

                                      The four of us shared everything. Apps were Vareniki (pirogi), Samsa (puffed pastry) with meat, Samsa with pumpkin All were delicious. The pirogi are especially tender and flavorful.
                                      Chicken Tabaka, sautéed cornish hen with piquant sauce, Quail with meat, two lamb stuffed birds prepared on the charcoal, Lamb Shish Kebab and Chicken Shish Kebab.
                                      Each was perfectly prepared, its easy to overdo these dishes but these were tender and juicy.
                                      We also shared an order of Manti which were steamed dumplings stuffed with seasoned lamb. These were a big yum and were devoured.

                                      We nibbled on a Pecan Cake and a sort of a Chocolate Mousse cake, both were very good. An order of the Uzbek tea was literally enough for the 4 of us.
                                      Service from Svetlana and staff was excellent. There were 2 large parties of about 20 each and they were having a great time.
                                      It really gave the place a festive atmosphere. This is a gem of a restaurant. Give it a try, you will not be disappointed.

                                      1. We had ANOTHER fabulous meal here AGAIN! I missed this place and 2 weeks ago we decided to go. I can't say enough. I felt like I was at someone's house. Albert is the most sincere host. Sveltlana is a doll. (What more can I say?)

                                        Now the food...DELISH!

                                        The Rendezvous salad is really tasty. Mixed in front of you, I could not stop picking at it...yummm

                                        The vareniki are always an excellent choice.

                                        First time we tried a pumpkin samsa. Glad we did!

                                        The kutabi with greens were also another great choice!!

                                        The lamb kebab was cooked to perfection. I also love the potatoes with dill!

                                        I wanted to post this because in case you have not been in a while. It was an excellent meal and I am looking forward to going back again!!!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Angelina

                                          I gave it only 4 stars because NOBODY gets 5!. We went because of the glowing recommendations; we look forward to taking our friends (one at a time, so we can go more!) so this lovely gem will not falter in this stinky economy. Went on a Saturday night, and they weren't crowded, but given the reasonable prices and incredible food and service, they should have had a line standing outside.
                                          It's worth the drive from just about anywhere...follow the above recommendations, or just try anything Svetlana suggests. Don't think there's a loser on the menu!

                                          1. re: mninj

                                            Sounds soooooo delish !!! on my to go list now as soon as I can get nearby in my travels..

                                            Thanx for the reviews.

                                        2. What a wonderful place to discover! We've been a few times, and it is always a great experience. All the positive reviews here are correct. Excellent food. Excellent presentation. Excellent service. This is not a fancy or pretentious restaurant. The warm and genuine service coupled with the authentic Uzbek dishware make you feel as if you're at a lovely dinner party. We've not made it through the whole menu yet, but absolutely everything we have tried has been wonderful. In particular, we liked the Armenian Red Bean Salad and the "Bakhor" Salad. The Plov was also worthy of special mention!

                                          The Russian pop videos are a bit odd, but for some reason they also make it seem that much more authentic. As others have said, the atmosphere it is completely unlike the Russian restaurants in the area.

                                          Go -- but go hungry! You'll be glad you did.

                                          Shirin Cafe
                                          345 U.S. 9 South, Manalapan, NJ 07726

                                            1. re: Angelina

                                              Not really sure I'd consider the 30" flat screen monitors as "Large," but the Russian techno music videos could stand to have the volume reduced a bit. Food is excellent tho...

                                              1. re: Angelina

                                                Albert and Marina are such lovely, hard-working people, and their food is seriously delicious It's great to see them getting this very positive publicity.


                                              2. More great publicity for Shirin, via Eater: "11 Dining Destinations Within an Hour of the City." I was surprised and pleased to see that they used one of my photos to accompany the short verbal description.



                                                1. Just thought I would share this article in the Asbury Park Press. Makes me want to go now for Albert and Marina's delicious food!! I love this place!!! It does not matter if you are not Russian, they treat us like royalty and our friends said the same!! yum yum