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.
Marani, 97-26 63rd Road, Rego Park, 718-569-0600
This relative newcomer (it’s about six months old) is a sleek kosher Georgian restaurant. Diners have the choice of eating from the kitchen — which serves meat dishes like kebabs, stuffed grape leaves, and lamb chops — or from the bakery, which turns out khachapuri — buttery, golden bread filled with cheese or egg.
Rokhat Kosher Bakery, 65-43 Austin Street, Rego Park, 718-897-4493
It’s worthwhile to take a look at the shops in this neighborhood, as well. This bakery, near the Forest Hills border, sells samsas and piroshky, as well as clay oven-baked bread. The house-made sweets combine the honeyed intensity of baklava with the texture of halvah, which comes from densely packed crushed walnuts rather than the usual sesame.
Eden Kosher International Food, 63-24 99th Street, 718-459-7324
For Bukharian takeaways, check out this deli and grocery where you’ll find meats, dried fruit, nuts, and other kosher standbys like Joyva candies.