Uyghur Bistro - Houston

Just discovered this one this afternoon. Good Golly Miss Molly - Chinatown continues to offer up new surprises. Have we had any Uyghur food here before?

Uyghur Bistro

There are pictures of the menu (and the complete address - 9888 Bellaire - which the website is lacking) on Yelp.

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Trying to answer my own question …

Robb Walsh wrote up a place called Chinese Halal Cuisine, 9896 Bellaire, back in 2009, called it Uyghur and the Press named it best Chinese restaurant in their Best of list that year but the Zabihah site says the Halal sign had been taken down in 2008 and the owner confirmed to Zabihah that he was no longer serving Halal food. Whatever happened back then I completely missed it and the place is apparently closed now.

Alison Cook wrote a one star review of Xin Jiang BBQ in the Diho plaza in 2013 but noted ‘there’s no ethno-religious intent’ at the restaurant; they do serve pork (skewered meats are a specialty and Yelpers love 'em) as well as dishes from other parts of China.

This restaurant is still open.

Whatever. I’m studying up on Uyghur cuisine and will be making a visit to the Bistro. I remembered this helpful article from Serious Eats just a few months ago.

My first visit to this place last Saturday was met with a packed house and several parties waiting in the entryway. I had expected traffic and parking hassles in Chinatown on the weekend but not a packed house at this brand new place that has had virtually no publicity. I wonder if we have an under the radar ex-pat community or if they just benefitted from all the traffic in Chinatown? There were only two 2-tops and the couple seated at one apparently hadn’t even gotten a menu yet so I decided to come back during the week. The place was busy when I stopped in on Friday afternoon, but not packed. There were more 2-tops; they had been pushed together to accommodate large parties on my first visit.

There’s a big sign on the exterior advertising ‘Big Plate Chicken’ but I wanted to try the hand-pulled noodles in conjunction with our DOTM for this month so I went with Classic Laghman. There are six varieties of laghman on the menu and all are made with the house-made hand-pulled/stretched noodles. Other than the laghman dishes, however, you have to specify you want the hand-made noodles and there is an upcharge, if I understand the menu correctly.

I started with Uyghur Yogurt, listed on the Drinks menu right above Ayran. I was expecting something like the dough of an Afghan or Persian restaurant but got a tub of yogurt dressed with raisins and I think kalonji. It came out first, quite a while before the noodles.

I observed other diners as I waited - the soups and kabobs are very popular. From what I could tell, the meat in the kabobs is served very well done. One group of four was tearing into what I presumed to be the Rib Kabob - a whole rib (beef or lamb?) on a plate - from which they split off bites and turned into make-shift nachos with pieces of the nan. It looked good although, again, the meat looked very well-done.

The noodles more than made up for my slight disappointment with the yogurt. This is stir fried lamb, bell peppers (green and red), red onion, napa cabbage and tomatoes served on top of the noodles with a sauce made with tomato paste, chili sauce and spices. My second bite included something incendiary and I thought I had been served the Spicy Laghman version by mistake but that was the only bite that provided anything more than a pleasant heat until I got down to the bottom of the bowl. The noodles are type 3a in hyperbowler’s thread which includes a link to a video showing the stretching of the noodles and the plating of the dish in a Chicago restaurant. The noodles are firm and slightly chewy. I finished the whole bowl, probably about 5-6 cups worth, and was absolutely stuffed and very happy but I wish the making of the noodles was visible from the dining room.

As I got to the bottom of the bowl there was a lot of sauce left-over. I should have stirred the noodles more as I went along. The sauce included some chopped nuts, whole spices and other bits I couldn’t identify plus Sichuan peppercorns. I got as much as I could with the spoon.

Service was okay. I didn’t have any language problems but I didn’t ask any questions. Most people were getting up to get their own cups of water and napkins. I asked for ‘just water’ and a cup was brought to me and refilled several times. I grabbed some napkins from a neighboring table that had been vacated. I’d guess they’ve done very little to the decor that was there from the previous restaurant which I think was a Sichuan place years ago when I went there.

This is a very good (and timely) addition to Chinatown. I’m going to try to get back over there and try the Uyghur Fried Noodles for this DOTM.

This is a fab review, Brucesw! Thanks for posting! I agree that the making of noodles would turn it into dinner theater, but it seems they don’t need more patrons at this point!

Alison Cook reports - I had seen her tweeting about her visits.

She likes the noodles and gives a first hand report on those kababs I’d only seen on the other tables. She likes the yogurt more than I did but I’m sure I didn’t get any golden raisins. The raisins I had were dried up and tough.

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As a related aside, Halal Guys fast food opened last weekend and havoc ensued. Probably didn’t help that they were giving out free swag to first in liners:

The Halal Guys - Houston Version

I drove by on Sunday mid-afternoon – impossible.

I have to go sometime to see what all the hype is about - if it’s about anything other than hype.

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Another satisfied customer: Alice Levitt/Houstonia.

So successful they’re already thinking of a second location???

I still haven’t gotten back over there for a second visit and it’s getting harder and harder to decide what I’m going to want to try.

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I detoured on my way home from 100% Taquito and drove by - no line in the parking lot and I would have been able to park pretty close to the door. This was about 2:30 pm. Of course, I was full so I didn’t stop but looks like the mania has died down rather quickly.

I wouldn’t say it was packed because it was under the radar but because it’s Uyghur cuisine and the sign had been up for months teasing an opening. I would say it was more so anticipation of the food after seeing the sign advertising it for months.

Aha! I hadn’t known about the sign being up for so long.

I have family from New York who moved to Houston… they are probably still standing in line at The Halal Guys. Even ten years ago, I didn’t think it was anything special – without the sauces, the food had little flavor – but in recent years I would say they went downhill. I think pre-cooking and mass production hurt the quality.

Thanks for the reports on Uyghur Bistro. We haven’t found a great halal option when visiting Houston. Now I just have to convince everyone else to skip M&M Grill. I could fib and say “Halal Chinese”, which everyone will think means Pakistani-Chinese…

I was checking back on Uyghur, thinking about going there this week, maybe even for Christmas Day - I thought I had responded to this, but…

I presume you know about this site, but perhaps not about Zain’s Halal Reviews. He’s a UofH student and focuses on Houston although he does get around. Never met him but have corresponded with him and he’s become quite a celebrity in the past couple of years. I always check to see if he has a review before trying a Halal place.

Thanks for thinking of me. We ended up not eating out at all while in Houston. Hopefully, next time. The sites you linked to provide a valuable service for cataloging options and providing a starting point. However, to be honest, I would trust the average reviewer on Chowhound or Hungry Onion before these sites. The old axiom is not true; the number of Pakistanis in a Pakistani restaurant is not an indication of the food’s quality.

A second Uyghur restaurant - Afandim (YELP) - open only a couple of weeks.

I agree on the usefulness of these sites. I don’t specifically seek out Halal so I really have almost no use for Zabihah. I find Zain interesting (he has now become a contributor to the Gastronaut blog at Houstonia mag) but I have eaten at only a couple of the places he recommends so don’t have a good feel for his usefulness in terms of quality judgments.

But the problem with relying on posters on CH or HO in Houston is there so dang few of us who contribute!

Hope you find some good stuff on your next visit.

We found good stuff this last visit, too. Good bread/pastries as I wrote about here. Artisana Bread also looks very promising and I hope to visit them next time.

But a place like Uyghur is truly unique. Looking forward to going next trip.

I went back to Uyghur today after a long hiatus. I had been looking through pictures of both this place and Afandim Uyghur Restaurant trying to decide which deserved my money. The pictures of the Beef Noodle Soup at Uyghur looked awfully good and several posters proclaimed it to be the best beef noodle soup in the city. Well, harrumph. We’ll just see about that.

I started with an order of Samsa (2 pc), the beef meat pies. The bread just appears to be pita bread, folded around the meat like a burrito. Some sauce is brushed on the top - possibly just soy sauce, and they are then sprinkled with white and black sesame seeds and baked. The big pleasant surprise is the filling - not ground beef like you might expect, but pieces of beef kabob (the samsa are listed under the Barbecue section of the menu). Very tasty meat. These came out very fast and were hot but not hot out of an oven. I think they were probably zapped at the last minute. Many of the pictures online show burnt samsas; mine were blacked on part of the underside.

The glorious beef noodle soup. I think the beef is brisket (flat); it is not stewed so long as to be falling apart tender but was not real tough and chewy either… The noodles tasted fresh and were a little irregular - most were close to spaghettini in thickness but there were some thicker ones and some flat ones of irregular length. The broth is excellent and is the real key here, I think.

I brought 3 C of soup home and probably ate that much and maybe more at the restaurant. A very good bargain for the price ($7.99).

As to whether it’s the best in the city… Conservatively, I’d guess there are 3-400 places in the city serving a version of beef noodle soup that I haven’t sampled so I’m going to withhold judgement for a couple more weeks. But it was very, very good. I’m looking forward to the leftovers - gotta get some cilantro and chives first.

Another very satisfying meal at Uyghur. I want to try Afandim soon (9126 Bellaire, no website).

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:grin:

I checked out Afandim today, our second Uyghur restaurant, 9126 Bellaire in the Wellcome Super Market Center.

I had the same dish I had on my first visit to Uyghur Bistro, Lagman. The noodles were presented separately this time. They turned out to be much firmer and a little bit chewy compared to the noodles at UB. I was wondering if that was just one noodle on the plate - when I tried to transfer to my dinner plate I couldn’t find the end of any of the noodles so I just wound up plopping the whole serving on my plate. They looked at first glance very uniform but on closer inspection they varied in diameter and some were definitely flatter and squarer than others.

This was not at all spicy. There was a spicy version on the menu but I ordered as I did at UB, the non-spicy version. I could have used at least a little spice as at UB. The server said I could have more noodles if I needed them when he brought them to the table and came back during the meal to ask if I wanted more. I passed. I could have used a few more but I knew I was going to be stuffed without them so I just made do.

Hot tea is complimentary.

This wasn’t as impressive a dish as what I had at UB. Not bad, just not as impressive. I do anticipate going back to both places. I particularly want to try some of the kabobs and the Uyghur pizza, which is like a large, flat empanada, with crust on top and bottom, like the Egyptian pizza I had at Dandannah.

The room is smaller than UB, possibly a bit more nicely appointed, though it’s obvious a lot of the wall art is held over from previous tenant(s). I read, I’m sure on Chowhound several years ago, that new restauranteurs in Chinatown often only pay the landlord to change the Chinese language name of the restaurant and leave the English language signage unchanged, to save money. Maybe the interior decor is treated similarly :slight_smile:.

The put butcher paper over the fabric table cloths. I was the last person for lunch service (11-3) and the sole server/front of the house manager/cashier/busboy was busy changing all the table tops that had been used. Mine desperately needed it and I had to throw my shirt into the wash when I got home. A slurpin’ good time was had by all. Or, at least by me.

They serve both lunch and dinner, but not straight through. The online information says they’re closed on Mondays but the window sign says they’re closed Tuesdays.

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