We recently held a wedding reception at Baku, an Azeri/Russian restaurant on Emmons Ave., and I just wanted to report on that experience as well as several meals we had leading up to the event. We picked Baku as our venue (potentially for an 150 person event) after looking at the much pricier downtown brooklyn and prospect park options, as well as a range of other Turkish, Russian, Causasian and similar dining spots (I have to note that post-Sandy, quite a few, like Liman, that might have been in the running, were closed) -the bride and groom vetoed Chinese.
As I mentioned before the wedding we visiting Baku for several lunches - it is pretty quiet and empty feeling in the daytime, unless they are having a party but dont be deterred - they are there and cooking! Not saying this is the best Russian Central Asian or even Azeri place in town (I dont have any basis for that claim - but just to report our satisfying meals there)
On our first visit we had already struck out at several possible venues, which were too small/not attractive - we were hungry when we hit Baku and had our lunch there. We ordered baku salad (a very russian and delicious potato salad including canned peas, and smoked salmon and topped with red salmon caviar), tender and juicy lamb rib kebab , fried mushrooms and potatoes, and meat and green kutab (these are flat pastries, filled with finely ground lamb and spinach, respectively and in the case of the meat, served with a yogurt based sauce). Fresh baked bread was excellent. Everything was very tasty and the presentation was very nice - while the prices were not cheap, these were large servings which we shared, not individual portions, and we wound up stuffed and taking quite a lot of the amazing potato and mushroom dish home to share with husband..
Our second meal followed our meeting with the manager to discuss booking the restaurant - we were not that hungry, but sampled the eggplant trio - flat fried sliced coated with nuts, sliced rolled with cheese and and a delicious spicy chopped salad, eel salad (one of the items on the proposed banquet menu), and sigara (filo-wrapped cheese), and then they brought out (free of charge) a mixed grill with lulya kebab, sturgeon, and lamb chops,. this was served with a central asian rice dish yellow in color and scented with cumin and other spices that was wonderful, as well as a salsa like sauce for the meat and a sweet heavy pomegranate or tamarind based sauce for the fish - we liked the former, not the latter, but all the meats and fish were juicy and delicious. Finally they brought out excellent tea (earl grey or caravan type) served with ceremony in small glasses, accompanied by a bowl of delicious cherry conserves (I think from Moldova) and one of sugar cubes. All this food was very good, except for the eel salad (served with a monotonous sweet asian type sauce) and the shredded veg garnishes for the meats, which seemed rather underseasoned.
the week before the wedding we returned to the restaurant for final arrangements - at lunchtime of course - everyone was eager to return and son hadnt been before - since the reception menu was still changeable we tried the julienne (decision - YES), the kutabs and Baku salad (decision - YES) and son ordered a bowl of their kufta bozbash - a yellow-toned soup with meatball and chickpeas - this was tasty also, finishing with their tea service.
My lingering fear was that given how empty the restaurant had been at each of our visits and the care the cook was able to take with each dish, that the wedding food could never live up to our experiences. We were resigned to a likely reduction in quality for the wedding. this could not have been farther from the truth - Baku exceeded our expections in every way - with excellent food, friendly and able servers who were exceedingly helpful, great facilities (only issue - bathrooms were down two flights with elevator out, hard for the infirm). and the terrific food and presentation, I highly recommend the banquet menus, which offer an incredible spread (family style), presented over more than 2 hours, of cold appetizers, hot appetizers, main dishes and dessert/fruit/coffee tea. Georgian wine, soft drinks etc are included (no liquor license) so you can bring in your own alcohol (bartenders are available). The menus are highly negotiable and the quantity and diversity of of food served is great - our guests included every sort of person from south indian (and other) vegetarians to west indians to boston and midwestern family members, and all had a great meal. Highlights (for me) included salmon tartare served with fresh potato chips, the restaurant's incredible fried potatoes and mushrooms (not as crispy as a la carte but incredibly delicious), an excellent greek type salad (very good cheese), the eggplant trio described above, several types of good smoked fish, sesame tuna, julienne (wild mushrooms in cream, topped with melted mozzarella cheese), duck salad with citrus sauce, foie gras with rasberry sauce (actually ordinary grilled duck livers but excellent) grilled sliced filet, grilled lambchops, and fantastic grilled sturgeon (there was seabass too but did not sample) They excel at these grilled items. They have several rooms and great audio and lighting support for a cool party - dancing was fantastic.Highly recommended! We ate leftover duck livers and sliced filet for a whole week after the party. the only item that was not successful was the kutabs, which need to be eaten warm - with the mountains of food on the table, they were cold before anyone noticed them. Dishes that I was dubious about on the "French Banquet" menu, such as the foie gras, calamari and "shrimp bruschetta" (actually a very good dish of garlicy grilled shrimp in arugula, with some grated cheese), and duck salad turned out to be very tasty. We neednt have worried, this was an able kitchen.
An item that may be of interest to the planner- the host had suggested we could add blini with caviar to the menu - and I had agreed. As the service began the maitre
d came to me and asked if I had brought the caviar for the blini! It was the only real cultural disconnect and we got a good laugh and cancelled the item.