Looking for a possible venue for my daughter's rapidly approaching Bat Mitzvah, we went to Baba last night. Is is on 63rd Drive in Rego Park(?) near Austin STreet just off Queens Blvd. It is near Uzbekistan Restaurant (or is it Registan?), where we have never actually been. Whenever we call they seem to be having a memorial service. Maybe we should just show up.
Anyway, Baba was wonderful. The food may not have been as consistently good as at Salute, our nearby Central Asian of choice over on 108th, but it was quite good, some of it outstanding, and abundant beyond belief. It is a fun place, and it was packed. People who know these things better than I do should judge instead, but I thought that the band was quite good, esp when they played Central Asian music. Some of it seemed to be done more traditionally, others had more of the sound of Led Zeppelin played by Ayatollahs on speed. The dance floor was packed for most of the night, and it isn't really difficult to catch on to the the dancing style, thought there were a few people who were quite amazing dancers, esp. the women. A yound girl, around 10 or 12, who was there with one of the parties and was clearly learning traditional dance, did a very impressive little show, and it was neat to see how the style carried over into the pop dancing. The band broke at one point for a gypsy show, which was a bit tacky but fun, though it they were all Gypsies, I am a Galitzianer.
Oh, and the food. The standouts among the appetizers were the Korean carrot salad, typical of all of these places, with garlic, chili, coriander seed, and sunflower oil; kimchi (I kid you not -- but is it an import from home, or did they pick it up in Queens?); mixed pickle platters; smoked fish; beet and walnut caviar; and shredded cabbage with dill; there was also a meat platter not catered to American tastes, which included a very nice cold boiled tongue (not corned or salted as we usually get). There were about 12 appetizers on the table, and everything was serrved with the round uzbek bread.
The other courses kept coming: delicious fried potoatoes, mushrooms and onions; so-so blini (more like blintzes or crepes here, no noticeable yeast in them) with salmon caviar; very good roasted salmon; wonderful samsa (think samosa!), triangular puff/bread pastries stuffed with meat, onions and black pepper; excellent lamb shish kebab. Then, a platter of fried chicken cutlets, grilled meat balls, roast veal breast, and french fries with a Georgian style tomato sauce. Its authenticity was guaranteed by the onion cup filled with canned peas. The standout on the last platter was the roast veal, which was simply roast, tender but crusty. Next a course of monti, steamed dumplings. We actually left before dessert, so I can't report on that.
The experience was similar to Brighton Beach, though the food was much better (think Kavkas if you remember it, rather than National). The crowd was definitely Central Asian rather than European. And it is kosher, too! A number of men had their heads covered, and washed their hands and said motzi before eating. But it was defintely more risque than most kosher places -- clearly halacha prevented no one from having a good time.
The place : Baba, 91-33 63rd Drive, REgo PArk
718 275 2660. On Saturday night, their big night, they require you to hold the reservation with a credit card. Otherwise I think you can usually just drop in.