Bukharian Restaurant Brings Old World Flavor to Rego Park
QUEENS — Inside Cheburechnaya restaurant, the television stations are tuned to Russian programs, the walls are covered in big colorful ceramic plates, and there are fried beef brains on the menu.
It would be easy to think that you stepped into Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, but in fact, you are in Rego Park.
The restaurant on 63rd Drive has a loyal following among the Bukharian Jewish locals — who migrated to New York from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and speak a dialect of Farsi and Russian — by serving up the unique comfort food dishes from home.
The menu includes lamb testicles, veal heart and the restaurant’s signature namesake dish — chebureki — which resemble fried dumplings stuffed with meat, cabbage, potatoes or mushrooms.
“Those are considered delicacies in our culture,” said the manager, Miriam Tsionov, 20, whose uncle, Simon Tsionov, established the restaurant about 10 years ago.
Chebureki, which gave the eatery its name, are the most popular items at the restaurant ($1.65 - $2 each) and most of the tables have at least one order of them, Tsionov said.
“We fry them on the spot,” she said. “You have to eat them fresh.”
The Zagat-rated eatery restaurant started small, with only half a dozen seats. But it became so popular, that over time the owners bought three neighboring stores to expand the space and accommodate all the customers, with a canteen-style layout.
Among the dishes typical of Bukharian cuisine, customers will also find lagman soup, with noodles, beef and mixed vegetables ($5) and green pilaf, which consists of rice with chunks of beef, onions, cilantro and dill ($8.25).
Originally, the green pilaf was made with liver, Tsionov said, but the restaurant — which has a loyal following among the Bukharian community but attracts a host of other diners as well — opted to make it with beef, which is more popular.
Cheburechnaya is also known for its shish kebabs, with chunks of lamb, fish, beef and veal grilled over on skewers.
Among the most exotic items are lamb testicles and fat, veal sweetbread, heart and liver and fried beef brains.
But the restaurant also offers some dishes typical in Russia and the Ukraine, including Olivier salad ($6) (diced cooked vegetables with mayonnaise), and borscht ($5), which is served without sour cream to keep it kosher, Tsionov said.
Mediterranean flavors, including hummus ($5) and babaganoush ($5) as well as baklava ($3.50 for 3 pieces), can also be found on the menu.
Customers can wash down their meals with Baltika beers, produced in St. Petersburg, a variety of kosher wines from Israeli winery Barkan or tea, served in metal pots with small cups, which Tsionov said, should never be filled up, because it's considered rude.
The restaurant, Tsionov said, has many longtime customers.
Michael Davydov, 50, a Rego Park resident and president of a construction company, said he comes to Cheburechnaya on a regular basis. On a recent Monday he came with his sister Irene, who was visiting from Israel, to have some shish kebabs.
“Whatever is on the menu is part our culture,” said Davydov, who immigrated to the U.S. from Uzbekistan. “And it’s homemade food.”