Thursday, March 10, 2016

Not Your Mother's Shabbos Dinner

Monday, March 7, 2016
Arthur Dobrin and I lived on Woodhaven Boulevard throughout our high school and college years, but have not been back there together until last night, more than 50 years later.  We met at Taste of Samarkand, 62-16 Woodhaven Boulevard, Rego Park, for dinner, following a good review in the New York Times that impressed Lyn Dobrin.

The restaurant is relatively small, squeezed into a stretch of businesses of diverse origins, including a Chinese restaurant, an Irish pub and a Peruvian restaurant.  It has about a dozen tables, mostly four tops, fully occupied during the evening.  Lacking any personal exposure to Central Asian art, architecture and design, I don't know how authentic the decor is, but it is evocative of something foreign.  Similarly, I admired the colorful outfits worn by the waitresses, but I have to wonder if nylon is a crop native to Uzbekistan.  

The food was very good, Kosher, excluding dairy products, but different from the Eastern European Kosher food that I grew up with.  It listed its meat dishes as "Kebabs," although only some were skewered.  We ordered and swapped a lot of things: lepeshka, a round bread similar to focaccia; a plate shared by babaganush (sic) and humus; samsa, a triangular pasty stuffed with chopped veal and lamb; "Uzbek manti," meat wontons; a green salad that was predominantly red with tomato wedges; a special salad of greens, beef slivers and fried potato threads, unlisted on the printed menu, but mandatory; a very small roasted quail (the only misfire in the meal); lamb kebab, a half dozen cubes of lamb, cooked medium-rare as requested; a small lamb chop; chicken tabaka, pan-fried chicken with garlic and crispy skin.  We did not know that shoestring French fries came with several of the dishes when we ordered a large portion for the table.  

You will have to forgive their cultural appropriation in the serving of San Pellegrino sparkling water. The restaurant is BYOB and Lyn and Arthur brought a bottle of red wine.  And now [Drumroll], the bottom line -- $88.47, before our generous trip.  In other words, it's well worth a trip, less than a mile south of the Woodhaven Boulevard exit of the Long Island Expressway and about 6.5 miles east of Bloomingdale's.  If you need a geopolitical reason to patronize Taste of Samarkand, it is a co-venture of a Uzbek Muslim from Samarkand and a Bukharan Jew from Tajikistan.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Today's paper directed me to an interesting 2012 study on the use of government benefits: "Who Says They Ever Used A Government Social Program?"

While a bit heavy on social science jargon, the paper demonstrates how deluded (willfully?) Americans are about the role of government in their lives.  When asked if they "ever used a government social program," 57% responded No.  This may have left them "under the impression that it is solely through their own efforts or the largesse of market institutions" that they succeed or prosper.  However, when presented with a list of 21 specific programs, only 4% of the survey population actually were free of the taste of the government teat.  

The authors identify the different perception of direct benefits, such as subsidized housing or food stamps, and the "submerged benefits," such as home mortgage interest deduction or 529 college savings plans.  The former benefit the undeserving, while the latter are viewed as rewarding the diligent, prudent, and God-fearing amongst us.  It is these good people who tend to ignore the source of their bounty and disparage those in greater need.  

Wednesday, March 10, 2016
I miss it so much.  Going to work everyday?  No.  Eating in Chinatown everyday.  In my last days working downtown, I kept my eyes on 80 Bayard Street, the longtime home of New Bo Ky Restaurant (April 16, 2010, August 11, 2011), which was undergoing a gut renovation.  Now, ten weeks after my personal renovation, I visited the new Bayard Bo Ky Restaurant.  

All the surfaces seemed new and clean, but the layout stayed very much the same.  On the left of the entry, three men worked in an open kitchen overlooking the street.   Thirty or so tables holding two to six people were arrayed around the room. Even seated at a two top by myself I felt crowded.  There was a bucket of chopsticks, salt and pepper shakers and a sugar dispenser.  Also, four jars of liquids to squeeze on or pour out and two glass containers holding sauces that were respectively hot, hot, hot and hotter than that.  There was simply no room for my crossword puzzle.

The menu was surprisingly limited, containing 54 items, half of which were noodle soups, averaging about $6.  To my regret, noodles were only offered in soup; no plates of chow fun, mei fun, or lo mein.  Another ten dishes were meat over rice, and the remainder a random assortment of pig parts, shrimp and fowl.

I had a House Special Shrimp Roll ($7.75), nine 1" cylinders, in a very thin wrap, almost greaselessly deep-fried.  I also had curry chicken on rice ($6.50), four very small pieces of chicken on the bone, two small pieces of potato and three small pieces of eggplant in a very tasty, buttery curry sauce.  This was served over a large mound of rice which could have been limited to make more room for chicken, as far as I was concerned.  Maybe Bo needed to charge a couple more bucks and make a real meal of it.

Friday, March 11, 2016
The Upper West Side's Power Couple are off to the left coast for some big doings.  Details to follow.


  1. Maybe we can eat at Taste of Samarkand when we come to NY. We they be open during Pesach as they are a meat restaurant and maybe kosher for Pesach.