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How One Couple Is Trying To Bring Uzbek Cuisine Downtown

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What if you could try some Uzbek cuisine in downtown? Dan Levy and his wife Firuza Levy have put together a Kickstarter campaign to open up Samarkand Cafe that would feature the colorful dishes of Uzbekistan.

If you're not too familiar with food of Uzbekistan (which sits in Central Asia), Charles Perry of the Culinary Historians of Southern California gave L.A. Magazine a primer on the cuisine. He said:

Uzbek cuisine is a fusion of medieval Persian cuisine (tandoor breads, a particular hearty style of pilaf), nomadic Turkish elements (flatbreads, noodles, dairy products) and more recent elements from China (Turkic- and Chinese-speaking Muslim refugees brought their cuisine when they fled Xinjiang in the 1870s). The Chinese dishes are rather like dim sum, only made with (of course) lamb instead of pork and adapted to Central Asian tastes. Stalin moved a lot of Koreans to Uzbekistan because he considered them a security risk, and as a result, kimchi is now part of the Uzbek diet.

Are you salivating? Good, because we are too.

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The couple has raised $7,720 so far out of their $18,000 goal. They've also hired chef Habiba Musaeva to helm the menu.

Firuza is from Samarkand (hence the name of the cafe) in Uzbekistan; it is on the route of the famous Silk Road, she says in her Kickstarter video. On their website, they explain how they were inspired to open up an Uzbek restaurant and give a nod to Pulitzer-prize winning food critic Jonathan Gold:

It all started around 6 years ago when we moved to our new house and finally got a chance to entertain our friends and family. We held many dinner parties serving Uzbek food to groups of up to 30-40 people (friends, friends of friends, people from different ethnic backgrounds). Each and every time, we got the same compliments ….and the same question: We are addicted to your Plov. Why don't you open your own restaurant? Another crucial moment was the day we were driving and heard Jonathan Gold (Food critic for the LA times, KCRW and the first food reviewer to win a Pulitzer Prize) on the radio talking about Uzbek food and saying about his love for plov, “the grandfather of all pilafs". He bemoaned the fact that there was no longer any Uzbek restaurant in Los Angeles and that Los Angeles needs one.

Looks like they plan on cooking up Plov, which is what they describe as "a fragrant cornucopia of beef, lamb, rice, carrot and chickpeas," as well as Mani dumplings and Samsa flaky pastries filled with pumpkin or aromatic beef.

Here's their full story behind their restaurant idea (with some stellar food photography that made us drool):

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If you'd like to donate money to their campaign, go to their website here.