Okay, how about this: The food, which effectively combines elements of Persian, Mediterranean and Russian cuisines (Uzbekistan is a former Soviet republic), is remarkably fresh, flavorful and healthful. It’s the kind of place you want in your black book for a no-frills, restorative lunch or that quick dinner pickup after a long day. You’ll feel good about what you’re eating and how little it costs.
The fare is primarily variations of grilled meat, with shish kebabs ($7 to $17) and kebab sandwiches ($5) making up the bulk of the menu. Marinated and grilled lamb, chicken, beef and ground beef are distinctly seasoned and deliciously tender. Arranged on platters with mounds of heavenly spice-perfumed rice, fresh vegetables, pliable pita bread and tangy yogurt spread (in irritatingly small containers), it is fine eating. Veggie kebabs ($6) are decent, but the shrimp and fish versions ($8 and $11) pale in comparison to their meaty counterparts.
Wandering away from kebabs can be fruitful, and your foray will be guided by pictures of the dishes posted around the order counter. I loved the shurva ($5.50), a delicate broth afloat with chunks of red bell pepper, carrot and two lamb loin chops. Blinchik are similar to blinis – two tender crêpes stuffed with well-seasoned ground beef and daubed with yogurt spread ($2.50). Triangle-shaped somsas ($4), made from a flaky yet sturdy pastry, also have a toothsome ground beef filling. Another reminder of Russian influence is the comforting pelmeni, tender meat-filled dumplings in a dill-seasoned broth packed with beef chunks and vegetables ($4 small, $6.50 large).
The falafels have an admirable crunchy-outside/creamy-inside quality and can be ordered as an appetizer ($2.50), sandwich ($5) or dinner ($5.50). Beef shawarma ($5 as a sandwich, $8 dinner), cut into matchstick pieces, was tough, juiceless and did not thrill. The salads make up for it. Tabbouleh ($2.50) is light on bulgur wheat filler and bursting with intense flavor, and the simple but refreshing tomato, cucumber and onion Uzbek salad ($2) is nicely enlivened with dill. Uzbek bread ($1.50), an alternative to pita, is reminiscent of a denser Parker House roll. There is even dessert for those inclined. The napolean is a stack of heavy pastry layers held together by condensed milk, and medovik is a cross between yellow and spice cake (both $3).
Uzbek cuisine may not have culinary cachet, but the adventurous eater with an eye on the bottom line will find that Golden Valley is a trip worth taking.
Cuisine: Uzbek and Mediterranean
Address: 8115 N. 19th Ave., Phoenix
Phone: 602-861- 4055
Hours: 10 a.m.- 9 p.m. daily
Highlights: Meat shish kebabs ($7-$17), shurva ($5.50), blinchik ($2.50), falafel ($2.50; sandwich $5; dinner $5.50), tabbouleh ($2.50).
50 Best AZ Restaurants
We ate. Then we drove. Then we ate some more. ...
2015 Best New Restaurants
Our annual highlight reel of metro Phoenix’s most damnably delicious new restaurants. ...
Where To Eat 2018
Another year, another glorious eruption of must-try restaurants, visionary chefs, hot food trends and celebrity recommendations. Find them all here, in our top o’ the year salute to Valley dining. ...
Where to Eat 2017
Food trends, upcoming restaurants, rising chefs – the gang's all here! Plus: “Destination Dishes” throughout Arizona worth the drive. ...
75 Best Dishes in the Valley
The most iconic. The most creative. The best specimen of a beloved breed. ...