Bangladeshi Discoveries in the Bronx

Just off the 6 train, next to a slice of the Bronx better known as J. Lo's old turf, hounds sniffed out a small but lively South Asian enclave a couple of years ago. Now the neighborhood's back on the chow radar thanks to Neerob, which is cooking some of the best Bangladeshi food in this country, according to seasoned Bangla/Bengali hound JFores.

He was the wing man (and possibly navigator) for a recent Serious Eats sortie whose helpful log quotes an old saying: Fish and rice make a Bengali. That's sound advice for eating at Neerob. JFores says keski mas is a standout: baby anchovies cooked with crushed onion, coriander, and turmeric. Chhingri bhorta is excellent, too; it's a rough mash of fish, mung dal, and dried shrimp, powerfully seasoned with mustard oil and green chiles. Rui mas, tender crisp-fried carp in thick tomato­ onion curry, exerts a primal pull on Polecat. "I took pleasure in ravenously tearing the skin - my favorite part - off with my teeth in one bite, like a savage," he confesses. (It's mostly meat, but do watch for bones.) Also worth a try, though possibly challenging to novices, is shutki—funky fermented fish that turns up in chutneys and other dishes.

The best stuff here isn't on the menu, so go up to the counter and check out the choices behind glass. You can order in half portions, some as cheap as $1, so it makes sense to assemble a Bangladeshi-style meal of numerous bites with rice and dal. The staff is friendly and accommodating but may try to steer non–South Asians toward more familiar meat and rice dishes like biryani, so stand your ground if you're curious about the seafood specialties. Then again, you could do worse than to get the lamb biryani, which features moist, plentiful chunks of meat in aromatic rice—"easily the best of its kind that I've had," Polecat swears.

As long as you're up in Parkchester, you might as well explore the rest of the nabe, starting with Starling Coffee Shop, a snack and sweet shop across the street from Neerob. It makes the best Bangladeshi chaats that JFores has had at a New York restaurant, as well as relative rarities like pithas, flour cakes that come savory or sweet, with flavorings like palm sugar, nuts, fruits, and coconut. DaveCook, who sampled this shop's wares at a nearby street market, recommends black chana, redolent of coriander.

All in all, this is an expedition well worth a Chowhound's time, especially for Neerob. "This place is as legit a Bangladeshi restaurant as I've seen in the US," JFores promises.

Neerob [Bronx]
2109 Starling Avenue (between Olmstead Avenue and Odell Street), Bronx
718-904-7061

Starling Coffee Shop [Bronx]
2172 Starling Avenue (between Purdy Street and Castle Hill Avenue), Bronx
347-579-4271

Discuss: Neerob in Parkchester

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