We were anxious to try some of the staple dishes

Silk Road Bistro

607 Reisterstown Road, (410) 878-2929, silkroadbistro.com

This Uzbek gem in Pikesville sits next to a Domino's, and with the neighbor's giant, bright signs and blinding fluorescent lighting, you could be excused for passing it 1,000 times, as we have, and never noticing that it was there. Thank the culinary gods we finally noticed. Inside, it's the polar opposite of a Domino's: Delicate porcelain teapots sit atop sturdy tables covered in cloth; tasteful pottery hangs from stuccoed walls; a dozen Uzbek-speaking patrons sit leisurely at tables, drinking Perrier, wine, tea, or a maroon fruit punch served by the pitcher. The menu, in both Uzbek and English, includes "jiz biz" (on the English side), which only bolstered our idea of the place's authenticity-you have to be pretty unaware of and/or disinterested in American pop-culture norms to include a menu item that wouldn't be out of place in a cheeky brothel. As it turns out, we avoided jiz biz, not because of the name, or because it didn't sound delicious-it did: "Chunks of fried lamb served over crispy fried potatoes"-but at $13.99, it pushed the definition of "cheap eat." And we were anxious to try some of the more staple dishes anyway. The lagman soup ($5.49), described as a "traditional soup of Central Asia" was a revelation: flavorful, hearty, full of beef, thick house-made noodles, vegetables, and spices. The plov ($7.45), described as a "main dish of Uzbek cuisine," consisted of tender chunks of lamb and beef over a rice stew, with sauteed carrots, onions, raisins, and a bulb of garlic, peeled back to the cloves and roasted whole. We tried a chicken shish kebab too ($3.99), which was flavorful and came covered in thinly sliced sauteed onions and a thin, delicious citrusy sauce. If you're in the neighborhood, this could be a weekly go-to. Otherwise, monthly.

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