Yo-ho, it's my favorite neighborhood hang out!
...No it's not. Cafe Kashkar is located at the edge of Brooklyn by Brighton Beach. I had never traveled that far to the right of a subway map before, although I did once go pretty damn far on the B train only to realize after a very long time that I was supposed to take the D train. Bee, dee...my brain just can't handle the complexity of that kind of similarity in pronounciation. Since I wasn't too bright I backtracked, waaay back, instead of going forth on the Q and changing in Coney Island. The result of the journey was the intense desire to never return to Brooklyn.
But Brooklyn has tasty food (and a handful of friends with undefined tastiness), thus I'm compelled to go every so often. I went on Thursday night to join Mike and five of his food-loving friends for seemingly endless Uygur-licious food that left me hugging my belly while thinking, "So full...so very full...so very worth it."
The small restaurant (around 25 seats) may keep you entertained with a variety show featuring a singer who we determined resembled a cross between Hilary Clinton and Janeane Garofolo. This frightening combination led to a discussion on the composition of the ultimate woman Volton. Male Voltron would become a hot topic later in the night. Oh yesss. I'll come back to that.
Before I talk about the food, I want to mention that I don't remember what any of the spices or seasonings were. I just know I liked it all. Whatever the flavors were, I'd say that they weren't bland nor too strong; no one should find them offensive. EVERYONE, DIG IN!!!
Take a normal sized Chinese dumpling, enlarge it by 400%, inject it with Uygur superpowers and you'll get something that looks like manty.
Manty are ginormous thin-skinned dumplings of tender lamb chunks (at least I think it was lamb; the menu just says "meat") sweet chopped onion, and from the looks of the photo some wayward grains. Why there aren't more dumplings on steroids, I do not know; these are some tasty, meat juicy dough bags. And I know "dough bags" doesn't sound very appetizing...which is why I said it. I love dough bags. Sometimes when Diana eats dumplings, she'll leave the skins behind. At such time, something inside me cries, "The skins, the delicious dough skins, abandoned!" but I don't wimper too much or else she'll think I'm even weirder than she perceives me to be. You would not leave these skins behind because 1) you love dough and 2) they're really yummy. It wasn't as heavy as typical Italian pasta skin (just imagine that you know what my idea of a typical Italian pasta skin is), but it had more chewiness to it than a Chinese dumpling skin. I loved it, dough, meat, onion and all. I could've eaten the whole plate, but I knew there were a gazillion more dishes a-comin'. Gotta save room, you know. [pats belly]
WHAT DO THEY PUT IN THIS FOOD?! The lamb pilaf was another favorite of mine, although it loses to the manty for not being wrapped in dough. I love rice in just about all forms, aside from "stale" or "uncooked". This pilaf was...well, cooked and not stale. What did it taste like? Rice with added yumminess. Just put this on your "must order" list, okay? Yup. The lamb was tender and meat-flaky, if you know what I mean. Be careful of the bones; otherwise, enjoy the soft, moist, flaky, "this was once a cute little innocent lamb" muscle. I did!
The giant bread wheel (seriously, like the size of a steering wheel, or...uh, a hemroid cushion) was alright. It was chewy and a bit too dense for me to comfortably eat a lot of it without thinking I'd explode.
Samsa are like manty but with different dough, in this case flaky, golden layers. Oh. Man. Because of the heftier dough, we split three of these between our table of seven people. (To clarify, up to this point we had ordered two plates of manty, or eight total, two bread wheels, and two plates of lamb pilaf.) I prefer the manty over this, but it was still awesome. The dough wasn't your wimpy flaky stuff; it was more like chewy, flaky armor. Or something. I guess that's not very good armor, but it's substantial, and I'm a fan of chewing.
Holy shizz, it a pile of fresh noods! We got three plates of geiro lagman for the table because Mike knew this was the good stuff. I'll just copy and paste his review:
We started with the "geiro lagman" ($6), which is listed rather strangely under "soups." While the soup version of this dish is available under the title "lagman," the geiro version (under-described as "noodles with meat & vegetables") is more of a noodle dish with toppings. It's also one of the best things I've eaten on my nearly half-complete journey through the Cheap Eats list. It features hand-thrown noodles that rival Super Taste's and a sauce that includes tender, fatty chunks of lamb (watch out for the bones!), green and red pepper chunks, green beans, onions and scallions, and it's tied together with a oily red sauce enhanced with ground black pepper. We practically licked the plate clean � no joke!
Yup, it's awesome. I've only had hand-pulled noodles once in my life, but these were better because they weren't softened from sitting in a bucket of soup. The long, variable-width noodley ropes were fluffy, chewy, and not very dense. Eat this, you MUST.
Ground beef kebabs came on flattened, pointy metal rods that besides skewering meat may be used to kill people. Then again, you could use just about anything to kill someone if the object is moving fast enough. ...Um. on that note, look at the delicious juicy meeeeat. Juice and meat is a good combination, as long as the juice is from the meat. Actual meat juice and dry meat separately may not be so good. ...But then again, meat jerky is tasty. Pure, freshly squeezed meat juice? That's not so hot.
WHY DOES MY MIND DRIFT SO MUCH?! Back to the food.
The lamb chop kebabs were unfortunately not as good as the beef. Many of the pieces were more fat than meat, and...we wanted meat. Whatever spices they used were pretty good though. I was reminded of them all night when they constantly made their presence known to my tastebuds in the form of endless burps. Mike recommends Cheburechnaya for delicious meat on sticks.
I love desserts, but this dessert did not love me. Chak chak looks like a Chinese fried noodly brick bound by a sugar-based goo I've seen many times, but rarely eaten. It also resembles a rice krispies treat, which I have much experience eating. Ultimately, the soft, loose splodge of fried noodles soaked in honey was neither of these. It's not like it was bad—it just wasn't what I expected. I thought it'd be crunchier and sweeter when it was actually not crunchy (since it was moist and would fall apart as you picked at it) and...well, it was kind of sweet, but you know me and my sweet tooth.
And lastly, there's Ian. I totally just happened to catch him looking in my direction in the process of eating noodles. At no point did he say, "Robyn, I want to be in your blog; could you take a photo of me?" and then proceed to pose as an exuberant noodle eater.
HAHAAAA just kidding. Ian is cool! I think he's the first person to ask to be in my blog. His first question was whether or not I took photos of people for my site, which was apparently code for, "Put me on your site." ;) Sometimes I take photos of the people I'm eating with for my site, but I ask if it's okay (usually is, aside from the people who want their identity kept secret) or I request the other person to get an action shot of me shoveling a forkful of something in my mouth or ungracefully trying to fit my mouth around a sandwich. On a rare occasion, the person I'm eating with will take my camera and insist on capturing me in my gluttonous glory to share with the Internet world.
So...if you want to be in my blog, just ask! And if you don't, I might ask you anyway.
The final damage for seven people (and more food than seven people should be able to eat) was $80. Whoa. The awesomness of food jumps a bajillion points when it's cheap. Even though Cafe Kashkar is way, waay out there for someone like me (who lives in...NJ), I'd love to go back. For one thing, I need more manty. Many more. Also, Uygur food isn't especially easy to come by, yet here it is on the rightmost tip of Brooklyn! If you live in Brooklyn, you should check this place out. If you don't live in Brooklyn, you should still check this place out.
Thanks to Mike for inviting me out with his friends who fulfill an optimum coolness-quotient. YAY, I LIKE HUMANS!
Oh, I didn't talk about man-Voltron! Mr. T is in. Sting is not. There were maybe 100 other candidates, enough to create many imaginary Voltrons, but my mind is drawing a blank. I didn't take notes and photographs can't capture this kind of intense conversation. [pokes brain]
WHO ELSE WAS PART OF THE MAN-VOLTRON?! Discuss, if you'd like.
Dim Sum Dynasty
I've passed Dim Sum Dynasty in Ridgewood, NJ about a bagillion times, but hadn't thought about trying it until I read about it on Jason's blog and eGullet. I went on Wednesday night, which is not exactly a dim sum eating time. They serve dim sum from carts (the way it's traditionally served) on the weekends from 11 AM - 3 PM, but you can order a selection of them off the menu during other times. I ordered three dim sum and my mum and brother each ordered one entree for the three of us to share.
I wanted one of the taro dim sum, but it turns out they only serve them on the weekends. I let my brother choose one and he picked "mini shrimp rolls". Neither of us knew exactly what that entailed, but what do you know—they're mini shrimp rolls. Nothing mysterious here. Take a little shrimp, stretch it out, wrap it in spring roll skin and deep fry the sucker. They're like spring rolls, but less satisfying and kind of boring since they're only one type of filling and thus have the circumference of a straw. On the upside, that makes them much lighter than spring rolls. There's nothing wrong with the mini shrimp rolls, unless you're like me and aren't a big fan of shrimp.
Turnip cakes are one of my most favorite foods. The rectangular slabs are mainly composed of turnip and rice flour, but may also contain bits of shrimp and pork. When people ask me what turnip cakes are, I'm not really sure how to describe them. "Uh...it's not 'cake' cake. Um. It's good, just trust me."
My favorite kind of turnip cake has a slightly crispy "skin" holding in soft, almost creamy—but not quite that mooshy—innards. However, I'd enjoy it even if it weren't crispy and soft. I WILL EAT ANY TURNIP CAKE! As for the flavor of a turnip cake, I don't know how to describe it. Saying it "tastes like turnip cake" helps no one. Salt? Sugar? Yum? The black blob sitting on the cake is oyster sauce, which is a mildly salty, viscous sauce that as far as I can tell doesn't taste heavily of oyster. If you're near Chinatown there's a place on Mott Street where you can get three crispy turnip cakes slathered in oyster sauce for $1.25.
I had never tried snow pea leaf dumplings before, but they sounded cute and potentially delicious. And what do you know, THEY ARE CUTE! Lookit them little transluscent babies (transluscent because the skin is made of wheat starch and tapioca starch, or some other kind of...starch). Check out that pink and green viscera! Mmm, colorful.
The viscera turned out to be snow peaf leaf shoots and shrimp. Mmm. Tender. Just the way babies should be.
My mum ordered the plum duck, described as "braised boneless duck with sliced soft taro root crusted plum sauce". Since it was braised, the skin wasn't crispy like what a typical duck dish may have, and boneless was especially nice because I'm lazy and hate eating things around a bone. The "taro" was unfortunately not taro, unless taro is uniformly white-ish and tastes like a cross between a potato and a radish. From my experience, taros are purple, sweet, and hearty. WHERE IS THE TARO? WAARH!!!
Ah well, still good. This duck really packed it away for the winter; its tender, juicy meat was blanketed with a thick layer of smushy fat that I imagine resembles the one under my skin. While I wouldn't order fat-blanketed duck on my own free will (I'm not much for dark meat), this was good. I recall past duck-eating experiences being marred by weird fatty skin and tougher meat, characteristics that this duck didn't possess.
Leave it to my brother to get something rather boring. However, we all love rice, especially when fried and mixed with other things (in this case, shrimp, scallop, egg, bacon & vegetables). I don't recall ever having fried rice with bacon (the pig component usually comes in the form of roast pork bits), but pig meat is pig meat, so it all fits. It was good, better than other fried rice I've had, although nothing mindblowing (is there mindblowing fried rice?). My mum objected to the bacon...ye know, the mum who got the fat cushioned duck. I know they're not the same; I'm just sayin'.
The final bill was $15-$20 per person. Not bad. This is probably the closest Chinese restaurant to me that isn't purely take-out, so if I get the craving for a nice sit-down Chinese place, I know where to go. Then again, I don't think I'd get that craving very often as my taste buds seem to have shifted to "things that come between two pieces of bread". Or manty. Mmm, mantyyy.
Too lazy to use google? FINE!
random food related stuff
Soft drink company Tango made a great spoof commercial based on Sony's Bravia advert. It retains Jos� Gonzalez's singing (a musician I have unfortunately never gotten into even though I've felt like I'm supposed to), but replaces the boucy balls with less bouncy, destructive fruit. Awesome. [via Cool Hunting]
Not doing anything on Monday? Do you wanna see people eat giant hot dogs? RIGHT ON. Check out "Schnack�s Stahl Meyer 30" 100% Angus Beef Hot Dog Eating Contest". Complete info:
Monday May 29th @ 1:00pm
WHAT: 2nd Annual Schnack Stahl Meyer 30� 100% Angus Beef Hot Dog Eating Contest. Size does matter. The Schnack Stahl Meyer Hot Dog Eating contest is all about technique. The contestant to finish an entire 30" 100% Stahl Meyer Angus Beef Hot Dog nestled in a 28" Caputo's bun will win a grand prize of $500.
WHO: Eight contestants who have pre-qualified in "eat off" heats held at various locations throughout the city during the month of May will compete to see who can eat a 30" 100% Angus Beef Stahl Meyer Hot Dog the fastest. Judges Harry Hawk, owner of Schnack, and Arnie �The Chowhound� Chapman will judge the contest to ensure that contestants adequately chew and swallow and do not deconstruct the hot dog (or any portion of it) or dip it in liquid to make it easier to swallow.
WHEN: Monday, May 29th � 1:00pm
WHERE: Schnack Restaurant 122 Union Street, Red Hook (Brooklyn) NY 11231 718-855-2879