The Joy of Plov

“Buy plov. It’s 249 rubles. It won’t betray you. It won’t deceive you. It will love you. Happiness doesn’t cost that much.”

George Zotov
June 24, 2021

To the point of tears, you can say.

Moreover, plov is suitable for both men and women.

You can add that plov never smokes in bed.

Plov’s parents never come for visits.

Plov won’t object if you put exactly the kind of meat that you like in it.

Plov doesn’t have social network account.

For 249 rubles, you can do whatever comes to mind with plov. There is no one in the world authorized to protect the rights of plov.

Plov is never interviewed in the media.

However, in our country it is not customary to make your relationship with plov official: no one will register your marriage.

You can take two different portions of plov at the same time, one hot, the other cold. No one’s going to judge you.

Plov may treat you coldly, but it’s easy to warm up.

If you’re in a bad mood you can call plov a soulless bastard, and it will be true. It won’t object to being called a bastard, and British scientists have not announced the discovery of plov’s “soul.”

The statement that plov will always love you is controversial because we rarely love those who devour us. On the other hand, no one has asked Pilaf’s opinion on the matter.

No, George hasn’t not been smoking something. It’s the end of the week and the fucking heat is killing him, just like everybody else.

© Zотов

Thanks to Sergey Abashin for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader



At Tashkent Supermarket in Brighton Beach, where the screech of the elevated subway echoes through the aisles, one will encounter what might be the city’s longest and largest buffet, a collection of prepared foods fit for an oligarch’s wedding. Sauteed Russian potatoes smell of garlic. Georgian peppers glisten in their Twizzlers-red sheen. Samsa pastries hide fistfuls of lamb beneath their oven-burnished exteriors. And bright red oil pools around ropy strands of Lagman noodles.

All this food sits and steams in over 200 self-serve trays, each located on one of two separate islands, the longer of which spans more than 50 feet. These aren’t so much food buffets as gastronomic yachts. The two structures hold more than 36 salads, even more meat dishes, fried whole fish, fried calamari, grilled salmon, cans of Pringles, sesame chicken, lots of things with lots of mayonnaise, and something extraordinarily purple called “fantasy salad.” What’s a fantasy salad? A terrine of chicken, mayo, and beets, all hidden underneath a bedazzled roof of pomegranate seeds. The tiny berries glow with the force of a Times Square billboard.

Such sensory pleasures are par for course here at Tashkent, a sprawling, late-night ode to the multi-ethnic splendor of Central Asia — and the city’s substantial Uzbek population. The owners shelled out $18 million this spring for a larger location in Bensonhurst, the Commercial Observer reported in April, and a general manager tells me at least four other Tashkent outposts will debut in the coming months. In the meantime, one will continue to encounter serious crowds at the flagship on Brighton Beach Avenue.

Source: Ryan Sutton, “Tashkent Supermarket Is Home to One of NYC’s Greatest Hot Buffets,” Eater, June 10, 2021. Thanks to Sergey Abashin, again, for the heads-up.

Café Antalia

Cafe Antalya
Café Antalia. Photo by the Russian Reader

The other day, a friend of mine who lives in the north of Petersburg told me she had just seen a crane taking down the word “Turkish” (Тюрецкое) from the marquee of a Turkish café there. It suddenly occurred to me I should check out whether the anti-Turkish hysteria had spread to my beloved Café Antalia.

Yesterday evening, I was relieved to discover that the Antalia, which in fact whips up the most wonderful, down-home Samarkand (not Turkish) cuisine this side of the Urals, had not yielded to the wave of rabid anti-Turkish sentiment caused, inexplicably, by the downing of a single Russian bomber.

The Antalia has the most delicious non in the city, and its lägmän, to my mind, has the most savory broth of all the lägmän I have tried here.

In any case, its mostly working-class Uzbek and Tajik clientele (Samarkand, historically, has had a Tajik majority, although it is Uzbekistan’s third-largest city) keeps the tiny place packed round the clock (the Antalia is open 24/7), and the neighbors, whatever their ethnicity, stop by all day to take away the non and samsa, which are proudly displayed in the window, right behind the tandoor oven where they are baked.

The tandoor oven at the Antalia. Photo courtesy of The Village

So the place is still called the Antalia.

No one seems to know where the name comes from, although I have quizzed different waiters there about it on several occasions. Some of them speculated the name was inherited from previous occupants, while others guessed the proprietors once enjoyed a holiday in Antalia. (Something that is now more or less verboten to ordinary Russian holidaymakers, or at least now much more difficult than it had been.)

Café Antalia. Photo by the Russian Reader

All that hardly matters, however, because if you ever find yourself in the vicinity of 11–13 Borovaya Street in Petersburg at any time of the day, then stop by the Antalia. I guarantee you will not regret it: everything on the menu is wildly delicious and inexpensive.

Samarkand non, as served at the Antalia. Photo courtesy of The Village
Samarkand non, as served at the Antalia. Photo courtesy of The Village

And the non is really out of this world, like a little morsel of Central Asian paradise.