19 E. Dundee Road
Buffalo Grove, IL
Central Asia always seemed like one of the most interesting culinary places to us – since it’s at the crossroads of so many cultures – yet there are very few restaurants in the area (or America, for that matter) offering its cuisine. So when the Eaters heard about Chaihanna, the first Uzbek restaurant in the Chicago area, we were pretty excited. Chaihanna (which means ‘teahouse’ in Uzbek) itself is tucked into an unassuming strip mall off a busy street. However – there is no way you can miss the red neon sign in a font meant to mimic the Cyrillic alphabet. Though pretty non-descript from the outside, when we entered the small restaurant we were surprised to find it covered with murals and tapestries.
The menu features a range of unique dishes from Central Asia like samsa (dough pockets with meat filling), plov (pickled watermelon!?!?) and the dessert chak-chak (fried dough with honey). To start with, we ordered some Lepeshki, a type of round leavened bread, which was hot and fluffy, and dotted with fork pinpricks. It came highly recommended by our waitress, and the bread is apparently made in-house. Our server was attentive throughout, and helpful with recommendations, as we were clearly fish out of water. At dinner on a weeknight, several tables were full of regulars speaking Uzbek and Russian.
For our entrees, I ordered the Chicken Tabaka ($7.95), which was a 1/2 chicken rubbed with spices. The dish was perfectly spiced (but not spicy) and the chicken itself was excellent. The plate also came with a dill and cumin oil sauce, which was perfect for dipping the Lepeshki. M ordered the Lamb Kebab ($12.99), which was a classic rendition, and came on a bed of rice with pickled peppers. For the price, the chicken was definitely the better value of the two, though M enjoyed the kebab. We were also impressed by the elegant blue and white china place settings- which are definitely uncommon for a place at that price point. We enjoyed our time at Chaihanna, and hopefully next time we’ll be able to sample some of the more esoteric dishes.