Taj Restaurant serves Uzbek cuisine, freshly prepared daily. Their humble accommodations in a strip mall may deceive you, but once the food is placed on your table you’ll see you’re in for an indulgent experience.
Uzbekistan is near to Iran, Afghanistan, China and Mongolia, but Russian is a major language there due to being part of the former Soviet Republic. Uzbekistan also contains the Silk Road, an ancient route linking the Mediterranean and China.
As such, the cuisine is a fascinating mix of noodles and dumplings, rice, stews, and flavours that are at once rich, thick and spiced, while also strongly flavoured with herbs like basil and mint.
All bread is made in a tandoor, beautifully decorated with swirling patterns and seeds and presented at the beginning of the meal, thick but still fluffy and very fresh.
Green tea served in handmade teaware also starts off the meal and is shared throughout.
Manti ($10.99) are dumplings enveloped in thin, wrinkly wrappers, filled with your choice of meat or pumpkin and served with sour cream. Somewhere between a gyoza and a perogi, they’re almost embarrassingly easy to polish off.
“Achichuk” salad ($4.95) is a simple mix of thinly sliced tomato, onion, cucumber, and peppers, dressed with herbs and oil. It reminds me of certain Thai salads, almost like a beef salad without the beef.
Restaurant owner Djovikhon Buzrukov pronounces samsa buns “samosas,” and though they are very similar, prepared in the tandoor at super high temperatures, steamy pastry wrapped around filling, the pastry is thicker than Indian samosas and they’re round in shape.
Samsas come filled with meat, pumpkin ($3.99), lamb ($4.99) or greens ($2.99) and it’s recommended that you pour a drizzle of provided thin chutney-like sauce into the shell to dress each bite.
Plov ($9.99) is made with lamb today, a traditional dish popularly made for occassions or when hosting guests. It’s cooked in a huge tandoor that allows all the comforting flavours to meld.
The special today is a liver stew ($10.99, $22 for two), a deep, irony, soupy meat dish dressed with brightening basil.
Lagman ($9.95) is a dish of noodles topped with stir-fried diced meat and veggies with herbs, bringing way more of that basil flavour to wonderfully slippery, oily, handmade noodles.
Though the space is quite plain, it’s large enough to hold several big parties, and the tapestries, textiles and painted ceramics that decorate the room are all handmade, just like the cuisine you’re enjoying at your table.