A new restaurant in North Dallas is serving a cuisine that's relatively rare in these parts: Russian. Called Bubala Cafe and Grill, it just opened at 17479 Preston Rd., in the space that was formerly Pera Turkish Kitchen.
Bubula Cafe is a family endeavor from the Margulis family, who emigrated to Dallas decades ago but wanted to share specialties from their native land.
Some of the dishes such as dumplings are familiar. But whether familiar or not, all have a comforting, homey quality, like what momochka (Mom, in Russian) makes, except better.
"This is a family project — my dad has always wanted to open a restaurant, so we decided to take the plunge," says Sima Bell, who runs the restaurant with her parents, her sister Marina Denisov, and her husband Bernard Bell.
"We're longtime residents of Dallas, we moved here 30 years ago, but we still have the recipes," she says.
Bubala features traditional Russian dishes but also pulls from other neighboring cuisines from republics such as Georgia and Uzbekistan.
"We do shish kebabs, salads, seafood, and everything is made from scratch," she says.
One item is called hachipuri; it's a Georgian dish, she says.
"You might have seen it on Facebook or the Cooking Channel, it's a striking dish," she says. "It's like a sweet dough made into a boat, filled with cheese and an egg."
They have a hearty entree with Uzbek roots called lagman that's a little like beef stew, if beef stew came with noodles. Chunks of beef are cooked with onion, carrots, potatoes, peppers, tomato, and spices as a soup, then served over pasta.
"It does look like beef stew, but it's so flavorful," she says. "It has beef and vegetables, but it also has noodles, which a typical beef stew would not have — and they're hand pulled noodles."
Plov is like a pilaf, a one-pot dish featuring rice, beef or lamb, and spices, with a heavy dose of garlic; they serve theirs with a half head of garlic, simmered with the rice until mellow, and cut so that the individual lobes can easily be squeezed out.
They also serve manti, the famous plump Russian dumplings that they make by hand, filled with beef and onions and steamed for 45 minutes until soft.
They do a cool authentic bread called lepyoshka that's a little like naan, with a cool ornate pattern stamped on top.
"It's a classic handmade bread, Uzbek-style, almost airy inside," Sima says. "You eat it with shish kebabs. And we do samsa, like small triangular meat pies, filled with beef and onions, and baked, not fried."
The restaurant interior boasts nice touches such as chandeliers which add just a touch of elegance without getting gaudy — great for the parties and family celebrations they've already begun to host. They don't serve alcohol but you can BYOB.
For now, they're open for dinner only — "but in the new year, we'll add lunch," Sima says.