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Café “At Your Mother-in-Law”

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8611 19th Avenue

718-234-1940

Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

 

3071 Brighton 4th Street

718-942-4088

Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Photo by René Atchison

Elza Kan grew up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, before settling in Brooklyn in 2003 to open her first restaurant, whose Russian signage translates to “At Your Mother-in-Law” (the English signage reads “Eddie Fancy Foods,” a switch from “Elza Fancy Foods” that occurred two years ago, after Kan's grandson Eddie passed away). Luckily, the Koryo-Saram women (Kan's family members) who run the show here eschew the stereotype of mothers-in-law — they're incredibly friendly. The result of a forced migration from Russia under the Stalin regime, Korean-Uzbek food pulls elements from both cuisines to derive flavors at once familiar and unique. Standard Uzbek dishes like plov — a lamb-filled, simmered rice pilaf — and bulbous manti dumplings join a vibrant array of cold and warm Korean salads available by the pound. Go for one of the hye preparations, which marinates eggplant, beef tripe, or chewy, cured chunks of tilapia in chile-spiked vinegar. While you won't find bibimbap or bulgogi on the menu, salmon and soy soups employ just the right amount of fermented zing. Chicken cooked under a brick doesn't exactly resemble the kind you find at a rustic trattoria; here it's served smothered in sweet chile sauce, crisp and reminiscent of the Korean fried birds that took the city by storm a few years ago. Chicken wings get a similar (though saltier) glaze, hidden under a mess of red and green peppers and chopped cilantro. There's only one dessert, but it's a doozy: chak-chak, a cake of fried noodles bound with honey that tastes like a subdued funnel cake.