Jibek Jolu offers unique Kyrgyzstan cuisine

May 4, 2013 8:30:45 PM PDT
As you drive by the Lincoln Square storefront of Jibek Jolu, the words "Central Asian Cuisine" only hint at the depth on the menu. The restaurant features the food of Kyrgyzstan, which benefits from its proximity to Turkey, Russia and China. In fact, many of the expats who eat here regularly look Asian and speak Russian.

"Kyrgys food is a mixture of several cuisines. We adapt from everywhere," said Albina Urmat, a co-owner of Jibek Jolu. "We have a little bit of Mongolian food, we have a little bit of Russian, Chinese and Turkish."

From the Russian side, blinchiki, which begin as thin pancakes, then envelop cottage cheese or sauteed vegetables.

"Dumplings, a lot of dumplings like pelmeni or blinchiki; those are from Russian food. Or soups, we have saliyanka and borscht," she said.

Noodles are hand-pulled, in a tradition that dates back centuries. The first phase is a bit mundane - just pulling and stretching - but once the cook gets going, her hand-pulling is mesmerizing. Boiled for just a minute or two, they're quickly tossed in a bowl then topped with a saute of daikon radish, peppers and beef.

Another Asian touch - manty - thick, overstuffed steamed dumplings that clearly originated in Asia. The Mongolian beef has multiple personalities: the thinly-sliced, cooked beef seems Chinese, but the sides of mashed potatoes and carrot-vegetable sauce are pure Russia. The fact that the kitchen cooks for its hard-core regulars only enhances the experience.

"I think for them it's like coming home again," she said.

So Central Asian cuisine - specifically Kyrgy food - has all kinds of influences; from Russia to China, even Turkey, and the great thing is they are all supremely delicious.

Desserts are almost more Mediterranean-influenced, including honey cake, baklava and tiramisu.

Jibek Jolu
5047 N. Lincoln Ave.
(773) 878-8494