Silk Road Delights at Kavsar Uzbek Restaurant

By Charleen - July 18, 2019

Kavsar Uzbek-Russian Restaurant 
Pittsburgh, PA USA. 

"This is new on our menu, and it is soooo good!  Try the meat-bread," gushed our server Lana. Having grown up enjoying her cousin Tahmina's fantastic Uzbekistan cooking using fresh ingredients bought and prepared daily, she was eager to share the delightful mixes of flavors and textures at Pittsburgh's only Uzbek Halal restaurant.

A few minutes later, a glorious wreath of fragrant dough arrived at our table. Cutting its crispy crust revealed fluffy layers of bread cradling thin slices of tender beef. I suggested that they should give that scrumptious bread another name, or simply use the Uzbek words for meat-bread. Although food is a universal language, that delightful wreath deserves something more poetic. For example, the name Kavsar refers to a crystal clear, paradise river. According to their website, "Everyone who plunges into this river, will never thirst and will always be healthy."
Interestingly, the inside of the non or bread reminded me of steamed Chinese flower rolls, or Huā Juǎn 花卷, which are traditionally layered with sesame oil and scallions. Perhaps this should not be surprising given that the Silk Roads funneled right through Uzbekistan and neighboring Turkmenistan, linking northern China with Europe. Several types of dumplings also grace the menu -- chuchvara stuffed with ground beef and onion dipped in sour cream, manti stuffed with beef, pumpkin or spinach, vareniki with  sweet cottage cheese or potato-onion fillings -- as well as golden samsas reminiscent of Indian samosas and Greek tiropitas (at least from the outside) and baked piroshkis. Given the time required to prepare manti, we opted for the chuchvara on this trip.
Chuchvara dumplings
Kavsar's spicy cucumber salad ranks as one of the best salads I have had, taking Asian influences of cucumber marinated in soy sauce and garlic to a whole new height with the burst of bright, grassy anise from the abundant dill (a feature of almost every dish). We quickly devoured the julienned cucumbers, onions, red pepper and fried beef, ladling the leftover dressing onto rice. It was not at all spicy "hot", but rather had a rich blend of contrasting flavors reflecting what I have decided to call the original East-West fusion cuisine dating back up to two thousand years before Pacific Rim or California fusion.
Spicy cucumber salad and Beef borsch soup
If you are unsure of which items to select, or are deciding between options, it is easy to get enthusiastic advice from Lana. It was clear that she loves the food. Each dish came out piping hot and freshly prepared. According to their website and a Pittsburgh Magazine interview, the dishes are made from scratch when ordered, using ingredients garnered from daily shopping trips. While most items included Halal beef from Salem's Market and Grill in the Strip District, there were also many chicken and vegetarian dishes, including a new mushroom version of the traditional slow-cooked Uzbek Plov served over rice pilaf with carrots, cumin and chickpeas. 

We sampled Russian dishes such as borsch soup and beef stroganoff, served over mashed potatoes. The Kavsar versions feature a scrumptious slightly sour gravy unmuted by excesses of sour cream more commonly encountered. We also enjoyed homemade noodles in an Asian spice broth topped with beef and vegetables. This dish called lagman is a traditional Uzbek dish influenced by the Uyghur people of northwest China. Finally, at the recommendation of Lana, we had the Kavsar Special Chicken. This was an extremely flavorful dish, although some of the breast pieces were a tad dry and it might be better with thighs. The chicken seems to have been marinated, stewed and cooked with paprika until the sauce was absorbed, and served with rice, pickled shredded carrots and a fresh garden salad. 
Beef stroganoff over mashed potatoes

Lagman - pulled noodles, beef (or chicken) and vegetables

Kavsar special chicken

The three of us thoroughly enjoyed our first tastes of Uzbekistan cuisine, touched by Russian, Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern influences. Although we each ordered an entree, the dishes are abundant enough to share family style. We ordered fried eggplant rolls stuffed with tomatoes and onions as takeout for my daughter with plans to bring friends and family back to experience the Uzbek tea service and more dishes, including Tahmina's own innovations. 

Kavsar Uzbek-Russian Restaurant 
on Mount Washington, est 2013 
16 Southern Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA USA 15211 
Open Mon-Sun noon -10 pm.  

🐾 Kavsar, on the corner of Southern Ave and Shiloh St, has its own parking lot one block down on Southern across from Natchez St. 
🐾 Although not in the heart of the new Shiloh St shopping area off of Grandview Ave, it is definitely worth walking just one block farther down the street.

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DID YOU TRY EATING AT KAVSAR?    Tag @love2chowblog and hashtag it #love2chow

Kavsar Uzbek Restaurant
Reviewed by Love2Chow on July 17, 2019

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