We’d go back to Rego Park.

Getting back into the swing of things, and trying to get back to the Sietsema list (I’ve been pretty distracted from it for a couple of months), my girlfriend and I visited Rego Park, Queens for the first time last night – our destination was Cheburechnaya, the 26th entry on that list.  Frankly, I though it should have been ranked much, much higher – despite the relatively far-out location, Cheburechnaya is one of the best deals and best meals I’ve yet encountered in my quest.

Taking the V to 63rd Drive is SLOW.  Once there, though, you’ll be astonished by the level of development – a mall with a Marshall’s and Sears is in the middle of a brightly lit commercial corridor that goes up 63rd Drive and 63rd Road.  Queens Boulevard is massive, too, providing a totally different ambiance from Jackson Heights or Elmhurst.

Since I was warned in advance that Cheburechnaya was BYOB, we stopped in at a grocery store to get a couple of beers.  Of course, we also ended up with candy from Belarus, a locally-produced honey-wheat-walnut snack, cookies from Poland, and raspberry jam of interminate origin (no English on the packaging).  The lesson, as always: never go into a grocery store on an empty stomach.

We hurried on to Cheburechnaya, which we were surprised to find occupying a large space with huge windows.  I guess I’ve been to so many hole-in-the-wall places that it’s surprising to find a place that looks different.  It sounded different, too – flat-screen TVs on the wall piped in what I imagine to be Russian (or are they Uzbek?) pop music videos, and the accompanying audio was occasionally interrupted by skits with what must be the Gong Show’s leftover sound effects.  Nothing better than a good “boingggg” noise, right?

As to the food – amazing.  Despite never having eaten Uzbek before, I feel that it’s similar enough to Russian and Middle Eastern food to make that claim.  To start, we ordered the amazing cracker-bread noni toki.  It looks like a giant Carr’s cracker in the shape of a dish, approximately the size of a truck hubcap.  Paired with a great hummus (second only to Hummus Place’s iteration in my recent memory), it would be the Geary clan’s favorite hors d’oeuvre, if they could only get it at Stop and Shop in Harwich.

Soon afterwards, our chebureki arrived.  I had ordered two beef and two of the “special,” with the expectation that they’d be roughly the size of a large pierogi, but I was dead wrong.  These fried envelopes are the size of half your plate – they’re surprisingly light, though, particularly when eaten immediately.  I’d choose the special, which seemed to feature herbed buckwheat and some kind of meat, over the beef.  Oddly, the shape of the pie is shown on the menu – it varies from flavor to flavor.

I just remembered that I ordered bread that never arrived.  Hope I didn’t get charged for it.

The skewers arrived last.  I ordered four, of which the vaunted lamb fat was my favorite.  Possessing of an amazing charcoal-lamb flavor and a melt-in-your-mouth consistency, I immediately considered the possibilities of using it to cook.  Eggs?  Meatloaf?  Apple pie?  It’s hard to imagine a context for grease where this flavor wouldn’t be welcome (okay, questionable on the pie – I can hear my grandmother’s objections already).

The other three kebabs were nearly at that level.  A very salty piece of meat, tinged pink, I was unimpressed with the first bite of veal sweetbreads (a little rubbery), but enjoyed it more from there.  It’s a unique flavor, to be sure, and (I thought) a great way to try sweetbreads for the first time.  The lamb kebab was probably the better of the beef kebab, but both were grilled to the same standard of taste as the lamb fat.  I just dig that lamb flavor, I guess.

Cheburechnaya is absolutely worth the trip to Rego Park at your earliest convenience.  It is both cheap and delicious – we over-ordered and still only spent $26 and change before the tip.  (Sorry not to have specific pricing, but I’m out of practice and forgot to grab a menu on the way out.)   I give it my highest recommendation.  Don’t forget to buy some booze to take – a bottle of Hennessy, perhaps, like two separate tables of locals we noticed on the way out.  (No kidding.)


Filed under NYC

2 responses to “We’d go back to Rego Park.

  1. I just ate there this weekend. The Noni Toki was fantastic.

  2. Jen

    Luckily they don’t make their cheboureki from Chebourashka ears!

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