Discovering the Silk Road Bistro/Choyhona and Uzbek food was a good thing! What’s Uzbek? It refers to Uzbekistan – a landlocked country in Asia surrounded on its southern rim by Iran and Afghanistan and to the north by Kazakstan. In ancient days, Uzbek cities like Samarkand were in the center of the “Silk Road” trade between China and Europe which generated huge wealth in the region. The “Silk Road” Bistro, located in a small store front on Reisterstown Road (near the intersection with Slade Avenue) is owned and run by Uzbek immigrants who have made Baltimore their home. (FYI – the manager explained that “Choyhona” is Uzbek for the English equivalent of “Tea House” and appropriate since the drinking of green tea is an important social custom in Uzbekistan.)
When the Silk Road opened in 2010, its owner stated their hope for the new restaurant:
“We wanted our “Silk Road” to continue that tradition here in the United States as a place where people from all different backgrounds could meet and talk, exchange news of different countries and parts of the world, conduct business or celebrate with the entire family, all while savoring our delicious Uzbek food over a hot cup of green tea.”
Inside, the small bistro with a dozen tables are placed in a pleasant dining room which looks much nicer than you might expect.
The Silk Road’s menu offers a variety of very reasonable priced foods. It includes ten appetizers ($2.50 – $8), Six soups ($4.49/cup, $5.49 bowl), a dozen special salads (most $6), Shish Kebabs (including a large variety of different meats, shrimp or just plain veggies; skewers with 4-5 large pieces of lamb, beef or chicken are just an amazingly affordable $4!), and ten entrees (including specialties like Plov, Manti and Chicken Tabaka are $8-$9). A very traditional Uzbek bread is $2 (and if you enjoy bread, this is definitely something to try!) The first time we ate at the Silk Road, we started by sharing two appetizers – Samsa and Kutabi (both $2.50 each!) The Samsa (similar to Indian Samosa) were delicious with a crispy pastry stuffed with chopped beef, onions and house spices.
The Kutabi comes available with either a ground meat or veggie/herb filling – we tried both (the meat got a quick Thumbs Up from all of us who tried it!)
John has tried the traditional Shurba soup and Marty tried Borsh (the Uzbek equivalent of borscht). Both soups easily got a Thumbs Up! from both of us!
The attractive and eye-catching dishes are made by hand in Uzbekistan!
For main courses, our friend Paul tried a $4 basic lamb Kabob and Tom tried the crispy Manti ($7.20) dumplings that can be filled with your choice of Beef, Potato or Veggies. John tried the traditional Plov dish ($7.20) with chunks of tender beef and slivered carrots on top of deliciously seasoned rice.
John has also tried the Tashkent salad ($7 – Layered fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes and greens covered with feta cheese) which proved to be really delicious. Apparently when Uzbek food says covered in feta, they mean it! <Wink> The Tashkent proved to be one more Thumbs Up sampling!
Our friend Bill tried the Lamb Kebob entree ($9) and was really pleased (the serving was so generous with two big skewers of lamb, that he ended up taking home half of it!)
Marty opted to try the steamed Manti ($7.20 – beef dumplings – but also available filled with pumpkin or potatoes). Marty’s plate arrived with at least four large manti (but Marty was hungry and ate one before this photo could be taken! )
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the order of Uzbek bread ($2); It was wonderful and is definitely recommended!
Believe it or not, regardless of how satisfying our appetizers and entrees were, we were curious about what a Uzbek dessert would be like and we got an order of something simply called “Traditional Uzbek Sweets” ($5). These turned out be an incredibly delicious confection with a layer of a pistachio base topped by chocolate with more nuts on top! It was darn good and earned yet another well deserved Thumbs Up! from all of us!
Service was very good; the young men and women took care of us, fully answered our questions about various dishes we tried and made sure our water glasses got re-filled!
The Silk Road Bistro made a big impression on us (so much so that I already talked two friends into going back for lunch with me!) If you’re adventuresome, this is a restaurant worth going out of your way to try for sure!
FACTS: Silk Road Bistro / Choyhona – Pikesville; 607 Reisterstown Road; 410 878 2929; http://www.silkroadbistro.com/ ; open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner; no alcohol but BYOB; on site free parking in front with some additional parking in back.
FYI – Particularly in the evening, the small dining room can be filled up with people lined up outside – reservations for dinner are highly recommended (and avoid just “dropping by” for dinner – you may have far better luck at lunch time without a reservation). Parking is limited (particularly since the next door neighbor of the Silk Road is a Domino’s Pizza where the delivery team can take up 3-4 of the limited spaces in front). The Silk Road features belly dancing entertainment on Thursday evenings. There are also a half-dozen lunch time specials (Mon-Fri only!) which offer a filling and quite satisfying lunch for just $7-$8 .
UPDATE 9/8/2014 – I revisited Silk Road with several friends for dinner. Some things were good; other things were not so good. For example, the Uzbek bread which we were served this time either had been over-baked and ended up overly dried out (we wondered if it had been cooked much earlier instead fresh out of the oven?). I had a fried chicken dish which while tasty was from tiny squabs which presented me with as much bone as chicken (and seriously left me wishing for American fried chicken or the Peruvian style chicken that I’ve become fond of lately!) By contrast, I tried the vegetarian mushroom soup for the first time and it was very good! NOTE: My thanks to Fred for the photos that he took below!
Another friend, Fred, tried Uzbek french fries! He reported that they a bit of an odd taste that he couldn’t identify (perhaps stemming from the oil that they were fried in?)