Location: 1000 Finch Avenue West, North York
Chaihana is tucked away in a fairly anonymous office building; though there’s a small sign outside, it’s very easy to miss. My dining companion and I had the entire restaurant to ourselves — outside of the staff, the place was deserted. It’s pretty much the definition of a hidden gem.
A lot of hole-in-the-wall joints like this can be dingy and unwelcoming, but Chaihana is clean and colourful; they’re definitely trying to attract more than just the grizzled regulars you’d expect in a place like this.
They specialize in the ‘stans: the website mentions Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. The dish I ordered is actually the national dish of Kyrgyzstan, so that’s a fourth ‘stan to add to the roster.
I ordered beshbarmak, which a pretty simple dish — boiled beef (which is sliced), topped with sauteed onions and served on a bed of very broad noodles. There’s really not much more going on than that — there’s some green onions, dill, cracked pepper… and that’s about it. It’s basic, hearty comfort food.
The pasta was a bit mushy and it was incredibly greasy (you know when you’re eating something really greasy, and your lips get grease-slicked with every bite? Yeah), but it was pretty satisfying. The tender beef, the noodles and the onions all go quite well together.
It’s served with an equally simple bowl of soup — basically just broth (mutton, according to Google) with a little bit of dill and some green onions for colour.