Chayhana Oasis in Sunny Isles is a surprisingly enchanting Uzbek restaurant only accessible from one side of 163rd St. After you arrive on the correct side of the street, you have to find the visitor parking ramp above and away from the restaurant, and ride down the elevator. Then you'll see a mural of a sandy desert with a woman's eyes floating above it that entices you to take a seat and stay awhile.
The menu offered quirky little descriptions to keep the temptation going but it was the cheburek ($4.95) that won us over. The allure of food in the half moon shape, puts any full monty to shame. From calzones to empanadas to apple turnovers, folded over dough keeping its stuffing a surprise is just exciting. This dish was described as a deep fried crepe, folded and stuffed with meat filling. Who could resist? The dish arrived hot and full of air, like a decorative balloon that we didn't want to see popped. We sadly cut in and deflated this hot appetizer/party favor, but what was revealed was moist and flavorful lamb and onions. It reminded us of the perfect dumpling filling: wet and just oily enough.
Lamb and noodle soup.
Despite the tempting kabobs served on elaborate metal skewers, it was the delicateness described in the lagman ($7.50) that tempted us. This Uzbek soup with chopped lamb, homemade noodles, vegetables and Asian spices was our main choice. This bowl came served two plates up and was just a delicious soup with tender meat and those perfectly cut noodles where each one is unique and its own width, with just the right amount of chew. It fought off any touch of a oncoming sore throat and soothed our soul one spoonful at a time. This bowl was very reminiscent of Chinese beef noodle soup crossed with a traditional lamb stew with potatoes, green beans and carrots.
Free Dessert Alert: check in on Yelp.
We ended our light lunch with a slice of medovik ($3.95), a traditional homemade Russian honey cake with cookie layers and sweet cream inside. Tip: if you check in on Yelp, you get your dessert free.
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Chayhana proves to be quite the oasis, a serene spot where moist lamb is found and sweet desserts are yours for the taking. The beauty of Uzbek cuisine is that you get all the influences from China, the Middle East and Russia to make for one deliciously alluring meal.
Follow Carina on Twitter @CarinaOst