"You need to try that restaurant: they serve great kebab". That with these words that my friend Benny convinced me to go to Nargis Café, a crowded restaurant located in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, few steps from Brighton Beach. I am not sure I should classify this restaurant as Uzbek, just because its owner, Chef Boris Bangiev, was born in Uzbekistan: that would be such a shortcut! No, the restaurant serves Central Asian dishes from countries like Uzbekistan, Georgia...
Entering in Nargis Café is like traveling miles away: not only does the restaurant display an authentic decor with its carpets and decorations on the walls, but you will hear most of the crowd there speaking Russian.
To give you a bit of history of this place, let's go back to 2007, when the adventure started. At that time, Nargis Café was a tiny place, that slowly expanded over the years, taking over a flower shop (interesting considering that Nargis means flower), and later, a dry cleaner. The place can now accommodate, with its terrace, close to 150 guests. We went on a Friday night and it was packed, with lots of people waiting outside in a very good atmosphere.
Food wise, we were there for a feast! Before going for the kebab, made on wood coal, we decided to get some appetizers. The fresh salad with feta cheese was a nice refreshing way to start.
We eyed the eggplant dishes that came next. The first one was the fried eggplant salad, made with roasted pepper, red onions, garlic and cilantro.
The second one was the Bojon, a fire roasted eggplant spread.
It was delicious: comforting, you could really taste the eggplant and it was succulent with their homemade bread.
But the best appetizer was for me the samsa or steamed meat dumplings that were served with sour cream. I could not stop eating them!
Then, we got our kebab.
They were all good, having a nice flavor given by the wood coal and a very slight char. The meat was not dry and guess what: my favorite was the veal liver. I also liked the salmon, especially with its pomegranate sauce that gave a nice sweetness.
We also tried the lamb chops that were to die for: I love the strong taste of lamb and was not disappointed. The chops, that were frenched, also had a nice char and were quite juicy.
We asked for some vegetables and rice pilaf, the national dish in Uzbekistan.
The last dish was the lamb shank, prepared in a red wine sauce with mushrooms, and served with mash potatoes and fried onions.
This is one of their specialties that they do not put on the menu and keep as the special. This is another great choice if you like lamb. And that sauce...it reminded me a dish called viande aux olives that my mom used to cook.
As if it was not enough food, we ordered some sides:
French fries with herbs:
Potatoes with mushrooms and onions:
If I remember, this last dish is Georgian. I loved it.
Last was dessert and, unfortunately, I had an issue with my camera and cannot show you all the photos. Too bad, because they were exquisite. Know that not all of them are made on premises. My favorite was the Nargis Napoleon, a layered cake made with puff pastry and a phenomenal cream. I also tried the lava cake that was just ok, as too over cooked and therefore without a liquid center. With our desserts, we got some incredible jam.
Clockwise from the top right, there was: pumpkin, fig, sour cherry and I cannot tell you what the last one was. It seems it is a sort of white raspberry that they import from Asia.
The most surprising was the pumpkin jam that I never heard of. I liked it: sweet, it was a bit crunchy with an interesting texture.
Last, I should mention their homemade fruit juice that was perfect with our meal.
Needless to say that we left full: it was not only a great dinner because of the company, but also because of the fantastic food served to us. Nargis Café is definitely worth a trip to Brooklyn!