Ask most folks their first impressions of Arizona and you'll most likely hear answers like, "heat," "desert," and "heat."
Not Olimjon Samidinov. His answers were, "freedom," and "jobs."
Samidinov is a political refugee who, along with several others, was brought to Phoenix by the United Nations after spending a year in a refugee camp following Uzbekistan's 2005 Andijan massacre.
Torn from their families and with no chance of ever returning to their homeland, Samidinov and two others (one a chef and owner of several restaurants in Uzbekistan) began to build a new life in Phoenix, eventually opening Golden Valley, an inexpensive, casual place serving Uzbek and Mediterranean cuisine.
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Here's an excerpt from this week's review:
The most surprising thing about the signature Uzbek dish palov isn't that it's more satisfying and filling than it appears -- its rich, oily, and cumin-tinged bites of rice, onions, sliced carrots, and pieces of tender lamb as worthy of comfort-food status as any American casserole. No, the most surprising thing about palov is that in its native Uzbekistan, this rice dish is eaten with the hands and -- if you are a guest -- offered to you from the palm of your host.
"But we are a restaurant," says Olimjon Samidinov, nearly apologizing, "so we have to serve it with silverware."
Hungry for more? Read the full story on Golden Valley here.