8-person army conquers Cheburechnaya.

Last night, I went with Ludwig, Sophmoricles, my roommate, and four other friends to Cheburechnaya, the Rego Park Uzbek that I’ve written several times before. An ideal location for a group dinner, we ate and ate, and then ate some more – all for a bargain price.

Arriving 15 minutes late after trying several stores to find some Baltika (my roommate, classy gent that he is, bought Hennessy in homage to the three groups we saw drinking it last time), we took a table in the middle of the room. After passing out the menus and getting a lot of questions, I gently suggested that I order on behalf of the group (with some assistance and consultation from Ludwig). This seemed to please almost everybody, and I noted that, if I didn’t order in enough quantity, we could always get more.

The first things to arrive were the baskets of hot bread, hummus, and my favorite cracker (besides K-Fed), noni toki. I have been informed by those who probably know that I should alter my description from “parabolic Carr’s table wafer” to “satellite-shaped matzoh with better flavor.” Duly noted, gang.

The hummus was the best I’ve had it at Cheburechnaya, a theme which was to continue through the other dishes. Garlicky and with just the right amount of tahini, we practically licked the plate clean. Ironically, at $4, I think it’s one of the most expensive dishes we ordered all evening.

Shortly thereafter (and right after the first call for an additional plate of hummus), the chebureki arrived – two “special” with lamb, two beef, two cabbage, two potato, and two mushroom. That’s two of each kind offered, by the way – each fried pocket distinguishable by its unique shape, a representation of which is (if you can remember) printed on the menu. Of the bunch, I liked the special and cabbage best – the latter not being filled with boring sauerkraut but rather a stewed sweeter cabbage, with some kind of red-orange infusion. My least favorite was potato, but only because the filling is rather bland and liquidy – it certainly didn’t taste bad.

After demolishing the plates of mega-dumplings, we had a bit of a breather before the skewers emerged from the grill. One of my friends has decided to attend USC film school next year, and, after I offered congratulations, I told him I would be out to do a tour of the Mexican and Korean restaurants. He just chuckled – I think my friends expect things like this from me now. It’s a bit of a sickness.

Saving me from further salivation over the foods of Los Angeles was the arrival of our plates of skewers. Taking a cue from the chebureki order, I had gotten two each of the lamb, lamb rib, lamb fat, skirt steak, and ground-meat (lyu-lya) kebabs. To nobody’s surprise, they vanished almost instantly, but I made sure everyone at the table got a piece of lamb fat first. Thankfully, they had grilled it long enough over the coals that it exploded with flavor as it melted in our mouths – the oohs and aahs from across the table were many.

Once that round had disappeared, I was excoriated for not ordering enough food – only my roommate was sated after the first plate of kebabs. So I went back to the well for more, with a twist – one more of each of the lamb, fat, and ribs, and, at one friend’s request, the lamb testicle kebab. We also got another noni toki, more bread, and another plate of hummus.

Obviously the repeats were wonderful, but it was even more interesting to try the infamous Rocky Mountain oyster for the first time – if any preparation were to make that dish palatable, grilling over Cheburechnaya’s coals would be it. Those of us who tried it agreed – not a bad taste, but neither was it particularly interesting. It was kind of like a slightly less fragile tofu cube, blandly meat flavored. The texture, unexpectedly to me, was not objectionable.

I can always count on two of my friends for their near-unlimited appetites – my USC-bound friend and his counterpart across the table who works in the hip-hop world (and somehow still keeps kosher) were unbowed by the second round of food. So, while everyone else was sampling the weird honey and dough combination of chak-chak, two more kebabs and another cheburek (all lamb) were ordered. (By now, our waitress regarded us with a mixture of respect, pity, and bemusement, and I’m pleased to say that everyone felt we should overtip her for her graciousness in dealing with our requests). After this, even the two big eaters were sated, and we asked for the check and some tea to wash it all down.

The funny part is, even with several rounds of ordering, the check only came to $108. Including the generous tip, each person at the table spent about $16. Counting the beer we’d bought beforehand, this was a monumental dinner with enough excellent meat to corrupt a vegan – all for under $20.

If you want a good example of why I’m passionate about cheap eating, this is it.

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4 Comments

Filed under NYC

4 responses to “8-person army conquers Cheburechnaya.

  1. Wow, that sounds deathly good. After reading that, I felt very full…but I also craved something non-meaty.CHEAP EATS ALL THE WAAAY!

  2. Well, considering it’s a kosher meat joint, it definitely wasn’t a place not to have meat. Vegetarians would also be stymied. I had some mozz for lunch to make up for it.

  3. Anonymous

    did you really “note” that you guys could always get more food if you didn’t order enough?

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