Thursday, February 01, 2007

Buuz Bistro? Dumpling Depot?

Mongolian is a hard language for English speakers to wrap their ears around. It’s also written using the same Cyrillic alphabet that Russian uses. Plus, there’s really no instantly recognizable national dish that makes for a snappy restaurant name, in the manner of Burger Bistro, or Leaning Tower of Pizza.

These are all possible reasons why Oakland’s only Mongolian restaurant is called Pizza Rama.

The restaurant does serve pizza, but if I were running a Mongolian restaurant, I probably would have chosen to play down the European element. They seem to be doing well, though, so that shows what I know. (Maybe I am in the right line of work after all?)

I’ve been meaning to give this place a try since Pipi noticed it downtown months ago. I finally did at lunch today. I had a plate of buuz, which is something I remembered eating when I was in Mongolia last summer. The buuz served to me at the nomad camp outside of Ulaan Bataar was flat and fried; these were steamed but otherwise similar. They were very oily, very meaty, and very, very filling, like the burly big brother of a Chinese dumpling.

The place itself was interesting. It looked like any other small pizza joint, except that there were two enormous menus posted on the wall, one in English and one in Mongolian. There was a message board that had several notices tacked to it, most of them in Mongolian. I could tell that two were for used cars, because the model name was written in English. One was bi-lingual, advertising a room for rent. (No vegetarians need apply, I’m guessing.) There was a stack of glossy fliers of the size and shape that usually advertise nightclub events, but these advertised Grandkhaan Mongolian Vodka. The place seems to be a sort of Mongolian community center, which is kind of cool. I wonder how many Mongolians there are in Oakland?

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