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Azerbaijan Grill

Azerbaijan Grill has opened a second location on

Azerbaijan Grill has opened a second location on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow. A platter of jujeh kebabs, made of grilled cornish hen, is plated. (Sept. 24, 2011) Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

The cuisine of Azerbaijan, rife with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences, is all about big flavors and simple, fairly healthy grilled preparations.

It's a formula that's worked well for chef-owner Saeid Sheiklar, who opened the original Azerbaijan Grill in Westbury back in 2005. Now, Sheiklar brings the identical menu to nearby East Meadow.

A smart move, since neighborhood popularity is the name of the game. This is especially apparent on weeknights, when low prices, ample portions and affable service bring in a steady local clientele.


AZERBAIJANI HITS

Start with a couple of dips, such as the smoky, seductive babaghanoush (eggplant salad) and garlicky hummus. Buranee bandenjan -- sliced cooked eggplant topped with yogurt -- has plenty of panache. So, too, does the tabbouleh salad -- cracked wheat with chopped tomato, onion and parsley. Here, spinach pie means flaky phyllo turnovers stuffed with a bright, savory spinach and cheese combination.

A personal favorite is the jujeh kebab, aptly described on the menu as "delicious pieces of Cornish hen" marinated with lemon and saffron before hitting the grill. (Just be careful of those tiny bones.) For an additional $2.95, you can upgrade the accompanying brown or white basmati rice with the addition of cherries or cranberries, either of which pairs well with poultry.

Barg -- chunks of grilled beef tenderloin -- comes off as juicy and tender. A satisfying take on the burger is kobideh kebab, a combination of ground beef and lamb, highly spiced, formed into a flat oblong and grilled.

Brook trout, boned and butterflied, is chargrilled with an assertive lemon-garlic sauce. There are also garlic notes in the salmon shish kebab, the cubes of fish marinated with lemon juice and saffron.

Finish with baklava.


AZERBAIJANI MISSES

Lamb chops, requested medium-rare, are virtually incinerated. They're sent back and return medium-well. Oh, well.

Cubes of milky -- almost chalky -- Persian ice cream are an acquired taste.


BOTTOM LINE

With midweek dinner specials (Monday to Thursday) priced at $12.95, it's hard to beat the value here.

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