Uzbekistan is beautiful, everyone who has been there would agree. Nowhere in Central Asia has as much history and culture and nowhere has the architectural brilliance that you get in places like Samarqand and Bukhara. But with beauty comes tourists and with tourists come tourist restaurants. There is nothing worse than getting badly cooked, overpriced, poorly served, boring, bland food. Unfortunately, this can happen all too often in Uzbekistan because of the popularity of the country with tourists, just like in any country in the world.
Luckily there are still some amazing places, and the best places to try are found in the capital of Uzbekistan – Tashkent. Here are five you should try next time you’re there.
5. Steam Bar
Whoever said Tashkent isn't cool hasn't been there. It is as hipster as you can get. Think Shoreditch in London, the northern Suburbs of Melbourne, and pretty much anywhere in Berlin. And what do hipsters eat? Burgers of course. But really, sexy amazing burgers, set in some industrial art deco futuristic post-apocalyptic dining environment. They get service, being quick and attentive and serving you great food with a smile. They also specialise in meat – really good meat. Traditionally in Central Asia they cook the meat for as long as possible and really get as much use out of the animal as they possibly can, which might be good for the environment but isn’t good for our taste buds or health. Here they serve only the best cuts of steak and cook them the way steak really should be cooked.
4. Yapona Mama
The name of this restaurant translates to Japanese Mum. Now it's not Uzbek food, but after travelling for a week or two through the rest of Uzbekistan you're going to want a break, and what a better break than a nice Japanese meal, reasonably priced no less. Yapona Mama has all the standard Japanese dishes you're used to, and the sushi and sashimi are surprisingly good quality! You'll also finish your meal with more money left in your wallet than a normal Japanese meal would usually allow.
Who said you can't get vegetarian food in Central Asia? Well actually, it is really hard to come by and usually isn't very good, so we might have said that, but Broccoli is part of a new trend of healthier eating and vegetarian/vegan food. One of the amazing things about Central Asia is the meat, lots and lots of meat, however one of the downsides about travelling through Central Asia is the meat. You find yourself just wanting a salad and some nice vegetables. Well Broccoli does just this. Don't worry though they also have plenty of meat dishes, whilst trying to give a healthy, less fatty take on local home cooked food.
2. National Food
National Food is genuinely the name of the restaurant and offers, believe it or not, Uzbek national food. This is as local as it gets and serves good quality Uzbek food. Whether it’s a hearty soup in winter, some shashliks for dinner or some good old traditional plov, National Food has it all. It's also extremely cheap. This local eatery serves all sorts of local stews and pastries, however there is a catch – no menu. You just need to choose from whatever they have cooked that day.
1. National Plov Centre
Top of the list of course needs to be the Plov Centre. Although I've disparaged places that cater for tourists, this is the exception to the rule. Popular with tourists and locals alike, the National Plov Centre serves up more types of plov than you knew existed. For those who haven't experienced plov before, it is the national dish of Uzbekistan and consists of rice topped with meat and vegetables. It’s very heavy and filling and can often be too much so, but what they manage to produce at the Plov Centre makes the afternoon-long food coma totally worth it.