The building is cheery and inviting, somewhat hiding its former incarnation as a Wendy’s restaurant. Once inside, the lighting is pleasant, the music is soothing and spa-like, with wooden accents on the walls and comfortable booths and chairs.
From Central Asia to Northwest Ohio
Looking at a globe, one could place the country of Uzbekistan in the vicinity of territories directly opposite the Toledo, OH, area. Near the intersection of I-280 and the Ohio Turnpike (80/90), this restaurant seems out of place amid the truck stops that occupy the other three corners of the intersection of I-280 and Libby Rd.
This seems like an unlikely location for an eatery serving the cuisine of Uzbekistan, a Central Asian country that was formerly part of the Soviet Union. But then we learned that Chayhana is owned by brothers who emigrated to the US years ago, and by one in particular who landed in Toledo and then became an over-the-road truck driver.
Mirzo Khalilov explains that in driving long distances, he found healthy food choices, those prepared in the tradition of Halal (lawful by Islamic standards, following the dictates of the Koran), were almost impossible to find.
Filling a need
Chayhana serves traditional Uzbek food, prepared in the halal tradition, to many truck drivers and others who visit the location.
“Many drivers place take out orders for food to keep them fed for several days or a week,” Mirzo said. “They keep them in the refrigerators in their trucks and eat the food for several days.”
Brothers Tillo (also a co-owner) and Akram (our waiter) also work at Chayhana, providing a family friendly atmosphere. Other employees of the establishment are from Uzbekistan, including the cooks preparing the food. Serving hundreds of customers each day, at the crossroads of America, is a pleasant surprise in Chayhana.
Familiar foods with different spices and presentations
Salads that we ordered included the carrot salad, long thin strings of shredded carrots and caramelized onions in a vinegar based garlic-laced spicy dressing with fresh coriander. Also the Achick-Chuk Is a pleasing mixture of cucumbers, thinly sliced sweet onion, tomatoes, bell pepper and spices in a mild vinegar based dressing.
An appetizer, Samsa, was delivered to our table as a pair of wonderfully, crusty yet flaky, fresh bread covered with toasted seeds in an egg wash glaze, encasing a mixture of ground beef and root vegetables with a medley of spices. The use of different spices than we generally experience in the American dining lexicon is interesting and invigorating.
Something different and exciting is presented at Chayhana: all food is prepared to order, but with the bevy of cooks staffing the kitchen, waiting for the food does not take long.
Other offerings include a variety of soups, including Shurpa (lamb, potato, carrot and bell pepper in a clear broth), Mastava (beef with rice in a tomato broth with spices and herbs) and Laghman, (diced bell peppers, asian cabbage, daikon and assorted vegetables in a tomato broth), dumplings, kabobs and beef and lamb dishes.
The dumplings, Manti, were a casing of dough, similar to a pierogi, which contained a mixture of beef and lamb along with onions and just a hint of mint, served with a side of sour cream.
We ordered the Kavurma Laghman, a dish with noodles (somewhat like udon, but with a smaller girth) served as a small “mountain” with beef and sliced bell peppers in a tangy, somewhat spicy sauce. We sampled the Jiz-Biz, marinated ribeye beef, tangy and somewhat salty, served over a bed of french fries.
The Uzbek Plov, a plate of rice and beans with very tender beef and carrots and (perhaps) turnip or other root vegetables, was delivered with pride to our table. In fact, the entire meal was something that the brothers were proud to serve and explain, welcoming us to the staples of the Uzbek diet.
Video screens show footage of Uzbek cooking, an interesting and informative series of preparation steps along with cooking in a kazan oven (think tandoori oven). We tried the bread, Uzbek Obi Non, an 8-inch round with the texture of a large pretzel or bagel but with a slight hint of sweetness, which also had a shiny egg-wash finish with toasted seeds.
Desserts, made by the owners’ sister, include the milk and honey based cakes and a Napoleon.
We will try something sweet when we return to Chayhana, and that will be soon. The temptation of the spices, the comfortable ambience and the pleasant service along with the delicious food makes a return trip a must.
3565 Libbey Road, Perrysburg, Ohio 43551
Monday through Friday: 9am-midnight