For all the “creative eating” Brooklyn has become known for, the Instagram feeds, restaurant names and menu items often begin to look redundant the moment you want something that’s not totally familiar.
Even in Gravesend, way out near the end of Coney Island Ave., where Nargis Cafe‘s original outpost is, the Uzbek restaurant and bar stands out in an area saturated with east Asian food as one of, if not the, best option. Now, they’ve got a Park Slope location, and locals seem shellshocked by the quality and quantity of food and service being offered. Even as a lifelong nabe native, I’ve never seen anything like Nargis in the area – it’s far more unapologetically authentic than the majority of neighborhood restaurants. Usually you need to trek down to the borough’s southern reaches for food like this.
A far more intimate space than their Gravesend venue, Nargis Cafe’s new nook at 155 5th Ave. has a totally different crowd: Park Slope families not familiar with classic Uzbek dishes like plov, samsa and manti leaving stuffed after meals costing less than $20. A sprawling backyard with a running fountain and plenty of green is a peaceful oasis where mother nature herself cannot drown the wafting scent of grilled lamb chops and onion samsa. Inside, the vibe is warm and homey, with a bar upfront, bigger tables in the back, and Russian radio playing mostly American pop quietly overhead.
Nargis Cafe’s drinks menu is an impressive three-page affair, and it doesn’t even include the cocktail menu – which features a house special Moscow Mule – or a list of non-alcoholic drinks including Uzbek sodas and a chilled yogurt drink. For the full experience, try the kompot, an alcohol-free fruit drink, but don’t always expect it to be this perfectly sweet – while Nargis has the drink, served cold here, down pat, that’s not standard.
As for main courses, skewered kebabs are the length of a forearm, and many of the appetizers and salads can easily serve as a meal. The salads will make you question the typical leaf-based American model as these, with tomato, feta and cabbage bases, make for a simultaneously less bloated and more tasteful experience.
Overall, Nargis is a blessing for Park Slope’s food scene, a full serving of affordably-priced cuisine straight out of southern Brooklyn up where the subway runs.