Where to Explore Kosher Central Asian Food in Rego Park
For those who think of kosher food with the apprehension that jarred gefilte fish deservedly evokes, consider a visit to Rego Park. The neighborhood is home to a substantial population of Bukharians, Jews from Central Asia whose cuisine reflects the cultural blending that occurred along the Silk Road. It's rabbi-approved, but a long way from boring. Here are a few places to start, with a caveat: Keep in mind that stores and restaurants will be closed on Friday evenings and Saturday during Shabbat.
Cheburechnaya, 92-09 63rd Drive, Rego Park, 718-897-9080
This is the perfect place for the uninitiated to get a sense of the globe-spanning flavors of Bukharian food. In its large, relatively unadorned space, you'll encounter both local families and food explorers. The menu has photos on the back, which will help you nation-hop through the options -- you'll find pickled vegetables, borscht, baba ghanoush, savory pastries, pilafs, and kebabs. Manty sport wrappers similar to a Chinese dumpling, but the meaty filling tastes Middle Eastern. Samsas look like knishes, but the potato inside is seasoned with fennel like samosas. A pelmeni soup has a chicken broth base with tortellini-like meat dumplings, dill, and cilantro; it's as though every grandmother in the world has collaborated on the dish.
Tandoori Bukharian Bakery, 99-04 63rd Road, Rego Park, 718-897-1071
Further down the road in a narrow, cozy space, this bakery has a similarly eclectic menu, at times moving even further east with offerings like kimchi. The kebabs and garlic fries are a popular pairing, and the restaurant plays host to live performances of traditional Bukharian music on Saturday evenings after Shabbat ends.