Out to Lunch: Taam-Tov

I barely leave my desk, much less my office, for lunch. I usually have some sort of salad and a bowl of "what I made to eat this week." Lately it's been Thai fried rice, made from the extra little cartons of white rice left over from Chinese delivery and whatever veggies/protein I have in the fridge. If I don't bring my lunch, there's always the cheap company-subsidized cafeteria in our building.

I don't often go out for three main reasons:

A. I'm cheap - calculate the cost of homemade food and you will totally reconsider that $10 salad or sandwich from your local deli chain store.

B. I'm trying to eat "healthier" which doesn't include the roast pork noodle soup or Five Guys burgers I end up scarfing down when I go out.

and 3. It takes too damn long and my boss sits in the cubicle right behind me and never, ever leaves for lunch.

The thing is, I love to go out to eat. I have long lists of places I want to try - garnered from blogs, books, foursquare, twitter and friends. New York is just brimming with amazing food from high brow to down and dirty. So I decided to start whittling away at my list on my lunch break - plus I need to get my ass out my desk chair and breathe some of that fresh NY air. Ahh...

To kill two birds with one stone, I thought it would be great to ask co-workers to come along. I barely know anyone I work with and there's nothing like breaking bread together to forge the bonds of friendship. After several weeks of work-related delays, I finally headed out with Rob, a Product Development Analyst who works a few rows down the cubicle farm from me in a different department. We decided to try Taam-Tov, a glatt kosher restaurant featuring dishes from in and around Bukhara, Uzbekistan and located in the Diamond District. What, you may ask, the hell does that mean? I had no idea, so off we went to find out.

Turns out (I'm geographically challenged so I had to look it up on Google maps) that Uzbekistan is firmly nestled in among the other 'stans you may be more familiar with, like Afghanistan and Pakistan to the south and Kazakhstan to the north. More 'stans on the east and west borders, too. This puts the food squarely into that unfamiliar-to-me category of Middle Eastern meets Asian. It seems that Bukhara has long had a population of Jews, hence the kosher angle. I wasn't sure what to expect, other than hummus and kebabs. I accidentally left the yellow sticky on which I'd scribbled a number of interweb-recommended dishes on my desk. Rob and I decided we could wing it, and headed down to 47th Street, where, amid a sea of sparkling diamonds, we found the entrance and climbed two flights of stairs to the bustling restaurant. A few minutes later we were seated and focused on the paper take-out-style English menu. The regular menus were either in Russian, Uzbek or Tajik, but I certainly couldn't tell which.

We ordered a good variety of dishes:

Samsa: A sesame topped dumpling stuffed with beef and well-cooked onions. Not bad, but a bit dry.

Manty: One source I found suggested that despite the filling being very similar to the samsa, it was worth it to get both. I really liked the manty - not the prettiest things to look at, but the filling was well seasoned, the wrapper was soft and not gummy and the cilantro on top added a fresh note that the samsa was missing.

Lamb Ribs
Lamb rib kebabs: We wondered how ribs would be kebab'ed and were surprised to find that they had been cut into tiny, bone-in squares and threaded onto the somewhat scary metal skewers. These skewers are seriously heavy-metal! The lamb was salty, hot, fatty and smoky from the grill. I liked it, but fair warning - it was greasy and a bit gamey - in a good way. Oh, and the fries were awful. Yes, I still ate them, because they're fries, after all, but ugh. They were under-cooked and tasted like a freezer, not at all like the review I read that said they were well-crisped and thick-cut. Maybe they had run out of their regular potatoes and resorted to the year-old back up supply in their reserve freezer.

Lepeshka: Bukharian homemade bread. I liked it, but along with the two dumplings and the fries that came with the kebabs, this was some serious carb-loading (see reason B for not going out to eat often, above.) I tore off pieces and dipped them into the juice on the salad plate.

Israeli Salad
Israeli Salad: we almost didn't order this, but went for it, since there were no fresh veggies to be had in our other dishes. I'm so glad we did - it was a refreshing and generous salad of chopped cucumbers, onion, green peppers and tomatoes with a light vinaigrette.

Rob was a great lunch companion - he endeared himself to me immediately upon sitting down at our table by saying that he liked to share dishes so we could try a bigger variety. He was up for pretty much anything on the menu - except dessert, which was listed on the menu as "Cake of the day (with Nuts.)" Rob surmised that the cake of the day was probably the same everyday. With Nuts. Of course, now I wish we'd tried it, just for the novelty...

Over lunch, Rob and I found out that we both are from Pennsylvania and both went to Penn State University. We are both single with ex-boyfriends who are still part of our lives. Rob lives in New Jersey and he and his ex run a catering company there together, although business has slowed recently. Rob says that he's not very interested in getting into another relationship and feels happy on his own. He and his friends recently made an alcohol-fueled pact to buy a house in Florida together and be The Golden Boys when they retire. I'm guessing Rob would play the part of Dorothy. He doesn't seem like a Blanche type and he's too smart to be Rose and too nice to be Sofia.

At the end of lunch, Rob surprised me by picking up the check. Isn't that just the nicest thing?! It was so fun to try a new (and unusual!) restaurant and get to know my coworker better!

Our neighbors at the next table were enjoying themselves:

41 West 47th Street, 3rd Floor

PS. This is just the cutest thing and makes me seriously love this amazing, diverse, crazy city I live in: on the menu from Taam-Tov the following hours are listed:

M-Th: 10am - 9pm
Friday: 10 - Two Hours Before Sabbath
Sunday: 11am - 8pm

Two hours before Sabbath - I just love it!


Kara said...

You're so adventurous! And inspiring. I vow to leave my desk at least once this week and eat somewhere new!

Melissa said...

Thanks, Kara! I'm going out with another co-worker this week. I think we're going to try the Joe's Shanghai midtown location. Soup dumplings!

Kaja said...

Loved this!

Looking forward to your next lunch adventure!

KenKen said...

I end up eating here a lot b/c I work half a block away. You totally missed out by not ordering the cake, btw. It's seriously good. I wasn't until like the 5th or 6th time I went there that I ordered it, b/c the menu makes it sound so uninteresting. It's more like a pastry than a cake - puff-pastry-ish crescent with a nut filling - and delicious.

And the soups! If you ever go again, get the borsch or pelmene!