DINING OUT: Nargis offers a culinary oasis on the Silk Road
Fusion cuisine with a distinct twist is what diners can look forward to at Nargis Bar & Grill, which — after wowing customers for a decade at its Sheepshead Bay location — recently opened up a restaurant in Park Slope.
The eatery serves up the spice-laden cuisine of Uzbekistan, a country at the crossroads of east and west, with all of its nuances.
One of the most fascinating — and flavorful — aspects of the cuisine is the echoes of the food of disparate places that tease the palate, from Turkey to Korea.
“Our cuisine is a Silk Road cuisine, with some features of Asian cooking and some features of middle eastern cooking,” noted Boris Bangiyev, Nargis’s owner/chef, who learned the traditional food of his homeland in his mother’s kitchen, then perfected his culinary technique at the renowned New York Restaurant School.
“It’s really authentic,” Bangiyev stressed, “made like mom and grandma used to make. I wanted to keep that to introduce the cuisine.”
Among the highlights, added Bangiyev — “a lot of cumin and coriander, and a lot of fresh herbs, especially cilantro and dill,” lots of lamb, as well as kebabs and dumplings, and a wide range of vegetarian options.
The result is stylishly plated dishes that are simultaneously familiar and unique. The Assorted Mixed Spreads and Salads Platter ($16) comes with hummus and baba ganoush, but also a flurry of other flavors — many with middle eastern roots but also including, surprisingly, a Korean-inflected spiced carrot salad and kimchee.
That’s because there is a large Korean population in Uzbekistan, Bangiyev explained, and some traditional Korean flavors have made their way into Uzbek cuisine.
We sampled a range of Nargis’s dishes, beginning with the appetizer platter mentioned above, whose counterpoint of flavors and textures – variously tart, spicy, smoky and sweet, and creamy and crunchy — turned a pleasant dish into a knockout.
Alongside the appetizer plate, we also enjoyed house-made Non ($4), baked in a clay tandyr oven, wedges of which were thick and fluffy with a crispy exterior and a slightly charred flavor that added to the savor.
We tried three main dishes — rich, sweet, seductive Pumpkin Manti ($11), pan-fried dumplings stuffed with the pureed and spiced vegetable; and two kebabs, one of chicken ($7) which was amazingly tender, and another of grilled vegetable chunks, cooked till just tender and served with crumbles of goat cheese and a pomegranate reduction.
Finally, we tried two of the eatery’s desserts even though Bangiyev told us that Uzbeks do not eat a great deal of sweets. The baklava sampler ($8) was a symphony of honey, nuts and flaky pastry that reflects the middle eastern roots of much of the cuisine; the Napoleon ($8) is a traditionally Russian dish, according to Bangiyev, with cool, sweet custard sandwiched neatly between eight layers of pastry.
As authentic as the cuisine is the decor, highlighted by crafts made in Uzbekistan — pottery, rugs and other weavings — set against a traditionally New York exposed brick wall. As an added bonus, in nice weather, there’s a charming backyard with a waterfall.
NARGIS BAR & GRILL
155 Fifth Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Monday-Thursday: 5-11 p.m.
Friday: 5 p.m.-1 a.m.
Saturday: 2 p.m.-1 a.m.
Sunday noon-10 p.m.
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