During the summer of 2012, Khokon Rahman expanded his acclaimed restaurant Neerob, considered by many of its fans to be the undisputed king of Bangladeshi cuisine in New York, into an adjacent storefront, which brought some intriguing new items to the menu.
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Neerob in the Bronx does full service catering largely for weddings and other festive events. Distinguished by its more elaborate, traditional, and sometimes painstaking preparations and its ceremonial presentations, Bangladeshi "celebratory food" maintains the cuisine's fish-and-rice principles but elevates them to recognize special moments. It was some months back that, over fish and dhal in the dead of winter, chef and owner Khokon Rhaman first offered to cook me this food—that which is closest to his heart.
Starling Avenue, a microcosm of Bangladeshi life in the Bronx, continues to cement its position as the premier cultural and commercial center for the borough's Desi community. In the 1990s, only a handful of families from the South Asian nation called the neighborhood home; today there are nearly 2,000. It was only a few years ago that the street was anointed with the honorific title of Banglabazaar, given in recognition of the dense concentration of Bangladeshi businesses that line it, and eating there has never been better.
At Neerob (reviewed in whole here), fish takes center stage. But not to the neglect of vegetables, which often appear in simpler guises. One of the best is their okra with green papaya ($3), a great gateway dish for those who have been turned off by the vegetable's notorious sliminess.
Doing things right at Neerob, a Bangladeshi eatery in Parkchester, requires committing to a method of eating usually discouraged at American dinner tables. Skip the plastic utensils the staff obligingly provide and, instead, stick to your hands. In place of a fork or spoon, scoop up chunks of the dishes and spread them over patches of steaming white rice, making sure not to mix the dishes. Then eat. (Just remember to stick to your right hand.)