TASHKENT (800 Petrolia, at Steeles, 416-667-0737) Complete dinners for $20 per person (lunches $15), including all taxes, tip and a pot of green tea. Average main $12. Open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday noon to 11 pm, Friday to Sunday noon to 1 am. Closed Tuesday, holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
If the TIFF publicists responsible for throwing the bash for UK comic Sacha Baron Cohen's upcoming Larry Charles-directed flick, Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan, have yet to find the perfect spot to hold a wild 'n' crazy party worthy of the inept Central Asian TV personality, might I recommend Tashkent?
Mere steppe-like blocks from York University and adjacent to an oil refinery, Tashkent is one of Toronto's few Uzbek restaurants. For those of you not up on your geography, Uzbekistan borders Borat's homeland as well as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.
Garlanded with unironic plastic plants and lit by a revolving mirrored disco ball overhead, the corner room of an industrial unit seems dressed for a Soviet wedding, complete with long communal tables with starchy linens and formal place settings.
Unlike Cohen's character, there's nothing klutzy about Tashkent's Uzbek cuisine, an early East-West fusion that echoes Tibetan, Persian and Turkish. We begin with lagman ($4.99), an appetizing bowl of clear, dill-scented tomato broth thick with udon-style noodles and sweet shredded lamb, heaped with finely chopped parsley, scallion and coriander.
Samsa ($2.49) are the local version of samosas, de-curried triangular packets stuffed with more lamb. A Tartar turnover, chebureki ($2.99) recalls a deep-fried Cornish pasty, while steamed manti dumplings ($6.99) cross-reference momos and dim sum jiaozi .
The national dish, plov ($5.99/ $17.99 for four), turns out to be an agreeable rice pilaf loaded with caramelized carrot 'n' onion, firm chickpeas and on-the-bone cubes of juicy lamb and beef. A final trio of skewered kebab ($13.99) - char-grilled veal liver, beef and lamb sided with gently pickled onion and nondescript coleslaw - brings the student-friendly bill to just over 60 bucks for three of us, including tax and tip, with leftovers.