ny tIMES rEVIEW
TAAM-TOV is the best deal on a street where you can end up spending a fortune. Perched two floors above 47th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, it’s smack in the middle of the diamond district.
Look for a man wearing a sandwich board handing out menus (as opposed to others who will be inquiring as to whether you have jewelry to sell) and you’ve found the spot.
Taam-Tov moved into this new location from a more cramped, less welcoming upper-flight spot down the block a of couple years ago. Though the restaurant serves the cuisine of Bukhara, in Central Asia, the dining room’s walls are adorned with Chinese restaurant art, a holdover from the space’s previous incarnation as Diamond Garden, a Chinese restaurant.
They didn’t do much to the space, save to tack a massive flat-screen TV tuned to Fox News to one wall. No one pays it much attention, though I did notice a blink of interest on a few diners’ faces when an anchor teased an upcoming segment on how to tell whether your diamonds were real or not.
There’s a narrow outdoor balcony that’s open for al fresco dining in better weather.
Taam-Tov is a glatt kosher establishment, but rarely has a restricted diet tasted as good as it does here.
Samsa — domed, square pastries ($1.99) — are filled with a jumble of long-cooked onions and braised beef, and faintly spiced. Sometimes I tasted caraway, sometimes cumin.
But the spice is just an accent, a little frill around the edges. The joy of the samsa is the interplay between the chewy texture of the braised beef (and the occasional super-tender nugget of beef fat), the sweet, soft onions and the tender, crisp pastry that encases them.
Manty ($6.99) are big, lumpy, loose ravioli-like dumplings, also stuffed with beef and onion filling and served at room temperature. The filling is so good that its redundancy in the two dishes is irrelevant. I can’t imagine going to Taam-Tov without ordering a samsa and sharing a plate of manty.
Nor would I go without getting a pile of Taam-Tov’s charcoal-grilled meat, threaded on flat, wide metal skewers.
Though chicken shish kebabs ($3.49) are very popular — few tables are without them — I recommend that you skip the poultry (even the shvarma, which is chicken meat cooked on a spit) and stick to the grilled lamb and beef kebabs.
The lamb skewers at Taam-Tov are tip-top: expeditiously delivered from a hot grill, they’re crisp outside and tender within.
The best kebabs, if you don’t mind a bit of gnawing, are the lamb ribs ($4.49). They’re a persuasive edible argument against Frenched lamb chops, which sacrifice the succulent, savory inter-rib meat showcased here for a tidy appearance. Such a waste.
House specialties include cutlets and steaks, an Uzbek pilaf (studded with juicy meat and laced with carrots that made it too sweet) and a “Bukharian pilaf” that’s dark with buckwheat (both $6.99).
But the one must-have among the specialties is the golubtsy ($6.99), a plate of cabbage leaves stuffed with ground meat and rice in a broth stained red with paprika; as good as stuffed cabbage gets.
Be sure to secure yourself a basket of lepeshka ($1.99), a bread that Taam-Tov makes itself.
Also be sure not to plan a three-martini lunch there: the restaurant is dry. A selection of Israeli sodas (including a tasty grapefruit one, $1.99) is about as exotic as the beverage selections get.
But exotic isn’t really the thing at Taam-Tov. Affordable dishes with simple, direct, honest flavors are. These are the recipes the restaurant has honed during the six years it has been a diamond district mainstay.
The prices are also a major attraction. After spending big for diamonds down on the street, it’s good to know there’s a place nearby that’s easy on your mind and your wallet.
Taam Tov, perched two floors above 47th Street, is a darling of the Diamond District and acclaimed by the New York Times as “the best deal on a street where you can end up spending a fortune.” It is also highly-ranked as one of the city’s top restaurants by The Village Voice and was noted as one of the best and most reasonably-priced eateries by New York Magazine.
Bukharian cuisine is enjoying a renaissance, said owner Roman Kanatov. Taam Tov, which means good taste in Hebrew, is the perfect place to become acquainted with the exotic, flavorful and zesty cooking of the Central Asian/ Russian region.The succulent spices of Bukharian cuisine waft from the third-floor kitchen to the street level, beckoning visitors to the 47th Street jewelry district to try the offerings at Taam Tov.
The dining area is open and airy, with floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the lively locale down below. Chef/Owner Avi Koyonov stays true to the classic recipes of homeland, while creating a distinct menu of main dishes that include Manty, an appetizer of steamed dumplings with beef and spices, Golubtsy, stuffed cabbage with meat and rice, and Uzbek Pilaf, juicy meat with rice and carrots.
Perhaps the best known of Bukharian fare are Shish Kebabs, succulent meats on skewers, and the variety here astounds with a choice of lamb, beef, chicken and veal, salmon, tilapia and sea bass. Other options include house favorites
Rib-Eye Steak, which is marinated Bukharian-style and charcoaled to perfection, and grilled Tilapia. For dessert, home-made pastries filled with nuts are a stand-out. Taam Tov hosts private parties with music on-site, and caters special events in homes and halls.