Eating At Suzani Restaurant With A Russian
When my mother comes all the way from New York to visit, I know I have to take her somewhere good.
My mom is from Russia and I thought it could be fun to venture out to Suzani Restaurant, a well known Uzbek and Russian spot, and get her opinion on it. I thought it would be even more fun to share what I learn with you.
A lot of people think of food from Eastern European/Ex-Soviet countries as bland and strange. It’s possible that when you think of Russian food, you just picture lots of potatoes and beets.
You’re not entirely wrong- Russians had a struggling economy resulting in families needing to be creative with a few, cheap ingredients.
On top of that, because of the area’s agricultural environment, a lot of the food was in fact potatoes and beets. Yet, there is also a huge wealth of culinary history in that region.
A Brief History Refresher
Why do I keep clumping Uzbek food with Russian food? Not only are these two countries close together, but they used to both be a part of the Soviet Union. Therefore, while all of the republics did have their own characteristics, a lot of ideas and customs were shared. This is extremely prevalent in their cuisine.
Russia is where my family is from, and the largest republic of the Soviet Union, so I’ll often refer to Russia rather than every republic that made up the Soviet Union. Russia also bleeds into Eastern Europe, which is why if you visit the Suzani website they say they serve “Uzbek and European Cuisine” while having their menu partially in Russian.
Here’s a map to really drive the point home:
During this time, as I said, most people didn’t have a lot of money. Everything was rationed and people had to wait in long lines just for simple ingredients. There seemed to be two extremes: insane delicacies for the rulers and scraps for the rest.
Regardless, I get it. Here in America, when you hear “cow tongue”, it’s a little scary whether it’s considered a delicacy or not. However, there are a lot of savory, fatty, delicious foods to try at a spot like this.
Am I biased because I grew up with this food? Sure I am! But, who better to get a guide to a restaurant like this from than a Russian herself (…and her mom).
Below is what we ordered. Some of it is a little adventurous if you’re not used to this type of cuisine, but some of it is very basic. I urge you to try out Suzani the next time you want to get out of your comfort zone. You might be surprised!
If you gather nothing else from this blog, I hope you are inspired to try and learn about different cultures from their foods.
Dish: Beef tongue
This dish is historically considered a delicacy. It was dressed up in a creamy sauce, a drizzle of balsamic, and some cooked mushrooms.
The beef tongue honestly just tastes like an extremely tender cut of regular non-tongue beef. The texture is a bit softer, and you can tell from the shape that it is reminiscent of a tongue, but WOW it is good!
It’s very traditional and tasty, so if you’re looking to be adventurous, it’s a must.
Okay, duh, if you’re going to a Russian place you’re gonna have borsch. I’m going to be honest here though, the broth fell a little flat for me. There wasn’t any depth to it, and it desperately needed some extra herbs and salt. The meat, however, was absolutely delicious and tender.
In my opinion, if you don’t have a way to get home cooked borch then this will suffice, but nothing beats mom’s borsch.
Tip: Make sure you use the sour cream, and don’t pronounce the “t” Americans usually toss in when pronouncing “borscht”.
Dish: Uzbek Plov
THIS WAS A WINNER!!! If you’re going to an Uzbek restaurant, the plov is a go-to.
It is an Uzbek pilaf traditionally cooked with rice, carrots, onions, oil, and meat. I believe the meat here was lamb.
There is a whole art to cooking the rice, which creates a beautiful tender bed for all the oils from the meat and vegetables.
It seems like a simple plate, but there is such a richness in it because the simplicity allows for the flavors of the vegetables and meat to shine. It was so good that we downed two plates in no time.
Dish: Manti with beef (4)
Now, this is an example of a dish that is very traditional, and seems like it would be a go-to, but it just didn’t hit our mark. For those who have never had manti before, it is similar to a large pierogi. There’s also some similarity to dumplings because it’s filled with beef and not potatoes.
Why did we dislike it? It fell flat after the plov. The dough was pretty good, but the filling was bland and the beef felt chewy. Not our favorite.
If you do want to try this, go for it, but you might end up using the sour cream as a crutch.
This was okay.
I’ve had some amazing baklava, but surprisingly it wasn’t here. This isn’t the usual flakey, crispy, sugary baklava I love.
It was a bit more tarte-like and very chewy. Very strong honey flavor, though, which is delicious! Not what I was expecting, but by no means bad.
Dish: Lava Cake
Was it traditional? No. Was it absolutely delicious? YES! Don’t shy away from this lava cake just because it doesn’t seem “authentic”.
It was an ooey, gooey, delicious dessert that beat out the baklava. They really load up on the ice cream too, which made it all the better.
I highly recommend getting this as your dessert.
So, there you have it! Everything picked out was chosen by my mother, who is as Russian as it gets. This review reflects her- and my- opinions on Suzani.
Despite there being a dish or two that fell slightly flat, it was an absolutely amazing experience full of authentic, delicious food. I highly recommend this place for anyone looking to venture out of their comfort zone, or someone who has been on the hunt for awesome Russian/Uzbek/Ex-Soviet/Eastern-Europe/WhatEverYouWannaCallIt food.
Grab a couple friends, order a couple dishes to share, and enjoy yourself!