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Monday, September 21, 2009

Café Sim-Sim, Redux (CLOSED)

More visits to Café Sim-Sim--this evening with avid "Tweeters" Gaspsiagore and JoseSPiano--have produced a new favorite kebab and acquaintance with some great dishes hitherto unknown to me.

The moniker "Potato homefries with Chanterelle mushrooms" hardly begins to suggest the refined deliciousness of this dish. Very thinly sliced potatoes, expertly fried, with chanterelles (Лисички) added at the end, somehow become ambrosia. And the Baku-style eggplant salad, an Azeri variation of Russian eggplant caviar, has more tomato than in other versions I've had, producing a somewhat sweet, rich, satisfying dip. Chicken "roulet" (рулет--cold slices of a roll of chicken and some minced vegetables) and meat kutabi (a crepe-like flatbread--the lavash of the lyulya kebabs--filled with minced lamb and folded over into a half-moon), while tasty and everything they should be, pale somewhat in comparison. But be sure to get a loaf of the delicious bread (лепёшка), which they serve warm. Round, with a depression in the middle, it looks a bit like an overgrown bialy.

Chicken "Tabaka" is a whole chicken that has been spatchcocked (yes, I enjoyed using that word, and thank you, Jose, for reminding me of it), then pan-fried and sprinkled with minced garlic. Sublime. And the kebabs continue to impress mightily. My new favorite is the "pork neck" kebab... eating it, it nevers occurs to one that the meat might come from some odd part of the pig: it's simply moist, delicious barbecued pork. The lamb lyulya kebab is just as great as its chicken counterpart. And the beef shish kebab was just as good as it looked at the neighboring table during my first visit. The fries remain spectacular.

[(l. to r.) Lamb lyulya, beef and pork neck kebab pieces, facing a pool of dipping sauce, with sensational fried potatoes discreetly holding up the rear.]

Azeri and Russian cuisines have a lot of dishes that are relatively unfamiliar to most Americans. The menu descriptions are generally pretty good, and the lovely waitress (same one on each occasion so far) will happily answer any remaining questions you may have.

There is one particularly unfortunate and mystifying listing: "Douches". A better transliteration of Дюшес would actually be "Dyushes"... it's a bottled drink flavored with duchess pear.

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