“Is Bella Roza open?” my pal Rocky asked about two weeks ago about the Uzbek bakery/restaurant in Rego Park, where many restaurants have shut down due to COVID-19. “Pretty sure they are just closed for Passover,” I replied. Like me, Rocky’s a good—and single-minded eater—so a few days ago he messaged me that Bella Roza was open.
“Samsa, plov, and lagman,” he responded when asked what he was ordering. The samsa—meat pies filled with either beef or lamb—are cooked in a tiled tandoor that sits behind the counter. Time it just right, and you can score one fresh out of the furnace.
So the other morning I strolled over to Bella Roza to mimic my pal’s order. The bakery was most definitely open, but it’s now under new ownership and has a new name: Chaikhana Sem Sorok. Other than that things looked pretty much the same, rows of samsa were arrayed in the glass case, and a giant pot of plov sat on the stove.
My timing was off so the lamb samsa wasn’t quite piping hot, but I heated it up back home along with the other dishes. The crunchy samsa was lovely. Are the noodles in the lagman firner when eaten in house? Most likely, but the ruddy soup—brimming with red and green peppers, beef and fragrant with dill—was as comforting to me as some find Governor Cuomo’s daily press conferences.
The lagman came with a hefty wedge of crusty lepyoshka—a circular loaf that used to be listed on many Uzbek menus as “national bread”—so for a moment, I felt guilty about digging into the plov. I’m glad I overcame that. Chaikhana’s version of the Central Asian one pot dish was scented with cumin and shot through with sweet bits of carrot, and chickpeas, and crowned with a nicely browned chunk of tender beef. A clove of garlic and bit of hot green pepper were thrown in for good measure.
In Russian chaikhana means teahouse. When the COVID quarantine ends, I plan to enjoy a pot or two with some friends at Chaikhana Sem Sorok, break bread, and eat plov, and, of course, samsa.
Chaikhana Sem Sorok, 63-52 Booth St., Rego Park, 718-275-0777