By Merle Exit
Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year and beginning of the High Holy days, seems to be getting earlier each year, or is it? The Hebrew calendar is not the same as the Gregorian, which is most commonly used throughout the world. Although there are 12 months, each month goes back and forth from 29 or 30 days, thus the holiday may fall as early as Sept. 10 or as late as the mid-October.
Jewish holidays actually begin at sundown the day before. Even though Rosh Hashanah marks a celebration, it is also a day of accounting and judgments for prior actions. Celebration calls for a family dinner of both traditional foods and some you might just want to order from a restaurant.
Challah bread and sweet foods like apples and honey, tzimmes (a combination of carrots and sweet potatoes) and honey cake are most conventional. You will also find the dinner table paved with brisket of beef, gefilte fish and matzo ball soup. To avoid spending a few days of preparation, many people opt for having it fully prepared by a kosher deli.
An excellent alternative is a kosher restaurant, such as one of the many that line Queens Boulevard in Rego Park, incorporating Uzbeki, Israeli and Russian influences.
To get a sense of the Uzbeki area, Samarkand is a city in Central Asia in Uzbekistan. Samarkand sits along the ancient Silk Road, where travelers and merchants traded their culinary goods from China to the Mediterranean Sea, getting their share of imported spices.
Uzbekistan is noted for its grain farming, which is reflected in the use of noodles and bread products. Squash, eggplant and tomatoes are significant and black cumin seeds, imported from Uzbekistan are a dominant spice as they have a much stronger and sweeter flavor than the white ilk.
Stix would be considered more of a fusion of countries sharing some but not all of the spices.
Solomon Moses, owner of Stix — located at 101-15 Queens Blvd. — opened his restaurant seven years ago. I went with a friend to taste and share some of the bill of fare.
“What would you like to drink? That is always the first question asked by a waitperson. A kettle of green tea was my response. It comes with a small plate of sugar cubes and candy-coated chick peas.
A long list of salads featured Stix Salad: tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, scallions, greens, red peppers, beets, carrots and garlic that were marinated for a few days. The dill and vinegar base gave the salad a “pickled” flavor while the amount of time gave the vegetables a chance to soften a bit. My second choice would have been the restaurant-made babaganoush or hummus.
I am a bit sensitive to cumin. I asked our waitperson Kristina about the Mantu (dumplings), Samsa (layered triangular dough filled with meat), and cheburek, a half-moon- shaped fried dough filled with your choice of mushrooms or a combo of beef and lamb. I enjoyed both the texture and non-cumin flavor of the cheburek. In addition, whatever amount of lamb it had there was no gamey taste.
I noticed herring on the menu and did not want to assume that Stix did its own pickling. However, Armenian Pickled Cabbage and Pickled Vegetables were two other items on their menu.
Lagman soup can be described as a vegetable noodle soup with chunks of slow-cooked beef. Having had this potage in other restaurants of this type of cuisine, I wanted to get a sense of Stix’s. Some places make the noodles on the premises. Stix does not make its own. It did have a little bit of a kick from some chili flakes and the broth was excellent. It may not be a chicken-based soup but a great substitute for matzo ball soup.
Stix is all about the kebab: lamb; lamb ribs; beef; Lula (ground lamb and beef); veal liver; veal sweet bread; salmon; sea bass; vegetable; chicken with bones; boneless chicken; Pargiot baby boneless chicken; and chicken wings. I love chicken wings and never saw it as a kebab on any menu before. Baby boneless chicken features the dark meat from the thigh, another favorite of mine. Wings were meaty and between the easy spices and kebab-making process, we were both quite satisfied in the amount and flavor.
National Tandoori Bread is a staple in this cuisine. Since the bread is round, it can qualify for a challah bread option. The importance of the bread in the ceremony is in the term “break bread,” meaning that each person pulls a piece of bread from the loaf. Although the tandoori bread is fine, I can’t imagine preparing it for the best French Toast.
Here is where the sweets come in as I check out the desserts. The menu offers a truffle dome cake and chocolate soufflé as well as ice cream. Since I like my ice cream to have real cream, I skipped on that idea. Baklava is another menu item that I enjoy comparing. There are differences between baklava recipes from Greece and Turkey. A few choices are offered at Stix with one being long, round and having chocolate, which is the one I opted for. Let’s just say that this was the most difficult item to share.
Stix has a bar but only beer and wine are served and you are not allowed to bring in a bottle of vodka or any other food or beverage. You will find street and bike parking, wheelchair accessibility and free WiFi.
There is free delivery within a two-mile radius, zones depending upon the minimum. Delivery service is getting better as they are paired with Uber Eats, which means that you don’t have to be in any of the zones. Keep in mind that Uber Eats does charge for the delivery and there is an expectation of tipping as well.
Stix is open from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Sunday.