The food is typical Central Asian, consisting of dishes like Shashlyk, Plov, Manty and Laghman soup. I have the feeling that tourists pay much more than the locals...
Favorite Dish: I liked their Shashlyks and the Laghman soup, and, of course, the bread. The bread in Samarkand has the fame of being the best in Uzbekistan. When Tamerlan was away from Samarkand he brought bakers with him. But they were not able to produce the same good bread far from home so they were beheaded for that.
I'm not sure quite what the inspiration for the decor is at Platan, bamboo-hut-meets-Uzbek-yard probably describes it best, but it's pleasant enough, cool on a hot day and cosy on a cool evening. A roofed outdoor setting with pine bench seating around tables big enough to hold the multitude of small dishes that seem to make up the beginning of every Uzbek meal, a menu featuring several dishes we hadn't come across before, and staff that gave every appearance of knowing what they were doing - it all looked very promising and, overall, it delivered what was promised.
We came for lunch and the food was certainly very good, the service somewhat less organised that first appearances indicated it might be. Dishes came out of the kitchen in a rather odd order - things ordered as starters appeared after mains and word came half-way through the meal that some things were "off" - it seemed the kitchen was going through some sort of crisis. Never mind, we got there in the end and the food, plus the promise of some live jazz and a good saxophonist, was enough to tempt us back for dinner the next night.
The problems had been sorted, everything went smoothly, nothing on the menu was off, the sax player delivered and we had a really good night. What I would have liked to have done was come back in daylight - the restaurant is in an area of the city that has a lot of charming 19th century Russian houses, we only saw them in passing in our bus, a walk around would have been interesting.
Favorite Dish: Stuffed eggplant for lunch, eggplant layered with cheese and meat and baked for dinner - yes, l like eggplant and the little ones they used here were as delicious as all the vegetables were in Uzbekistan.
Lots of choices of where to sit at the Karambek - outside at al fresco tables, inside upstairs in a large dining room, or in one of the small private rooms off the balconies shown here. Wherever you are seated, you'll enjoy this restaurant. It's very popular with locals and tourists alike, deservedly so. The food -local and Russian dishes on the menu - is very good, the service helpful and obliging, wine and beer is available and the decor is colourful and appealing.
You would be well advised to book, particularly on a Saturday night (ask your hotel to make the call) and especially if you are in Samarkand at the height of the tourist season. We didn't, the place was pretty full and we didn't want to sit in one of the small rooms as it was a very hot night. The waiters bustled around, shifted a table or two and set us up comfortably without any fuss or disturbing anyone else - that's good service.
Favorite Dish: Delicious soup and salad for lunch outside under the trees on our first visit hit the spot perfectly, so we returned the next night for dinner and enormous serves of pork stuffed with mushrooms and an interesting lamb stew as well as tasty, tender (not always the thing here in Uzbekistan -some of the "lamb" sold is definitely rather long in the tooth) shashlyks.
The Uzbek wine we drank wouldn't win any prizes at a wine show, but it was drinkable so we weren't complaining.
Update 2009 Once again we came here for lunch and for dinner during our stay in Samarkand. The restaurant is still doing a roaring business, tables of locals and tourists all tucking in to the well-prepared and tasty food. One word of warning for tour group members who may be a little shy - a big party of tourists arriving for dinner were given the full Uzbek welcome of braying horns, beating drums and a cavorting maitre d'. They must have been kept on the doorstep for a full 10 minutes while all this went on - I know if it had been me I'd have felt a right ninny!.
Two options here at the Lyabi Gor -you can eat downstairs at western tables and chairs, or upstairs with a pleasant outlook into the tree with a choice of Western or Uzbek table arrangements. Either way the food is good, the place is clean, service prompt and pleasant and prices very reasonable.
Its position just across from the Registan probably means the restaurant gets its share of tourists - late in the season, every time we ate there everyone else was local -including a lovely extended family who insisted we join them for tea and smiles.
Update 2009The chaikhana hasn't changed. The location is as good as ever, the menu (nothing written) has all the old favourites as before, the only difference is that, with the general smartening up of the street outside, the outdoor grill has gone and you can no longer point to the things you want.
Favorite Dish: The manty (meat-filled dumplings), laghman (yoghurt dressed noodles with chopped dill), stuffed peppers and shashlyk were all excellent. As we found everywhere in Uzbekistan, there's a range of interesting salads that are served in small dishes - a selection makes a good light meal.
Even if you don't want to eat, the large balcony makes a good place to stop for that perennial Uzbek favourite - green tea - at a table overlooking the passing parade along the street.
If you're staying at the Zarina Hotel around the corner you might do better to come here for breakfast - especially if you're a late riser. The hotel breakfasts are less than inspiring and you could eat here more satisfactorily for a dollar or so.
What a place. With a feeling of an upscale western restaurant, the food is good, the decor, well, upscale...
Favorite Dish: The food's good. But I absolutely loved the sink in the main entry hall. That's the first image.
The big restaurant in the Hotel Afrosiyab is very nice. In the evening there is a big buffet with local and international dishes. That was very good as many of our group had some stomach problems. So who wanted to eat only salad or only some more familiar food and also those who wanted to try local food: all could choose from the buffet and everybody was satiesfied.
We chose this restaurant on our first evening in Samarkand as it was just a short walk from our hotel. Marat, our guide, told us that it was just recently opened so he had no reports about its quality, but that he knew the chef who had a good reputation. Well, we had to conclude that it was the chef’s night off!
The setting is nice, with a large paved area screened from the main road with bright yellow and white awnings. Our group of six got a good table in the centre of this area. The waitress though spoke no English, and unlike everyone else we met in Uzbekistan, was not inclined to be helpful, although was not exactly unfriendly. We managed to decipher some of the options on the Russian menu, but everything we tried to order seemed to be unavailable – although one of her colleagues did eventually appear with the hoped-for cold beers. Chris and I ended up ordering beef shashliks, which were OK but not what we’d wanted. Meanwhile Georgina, having been assured that the salad she’d ordered was vegetarian (and in fact their only vegetarian option), was quite surprised to find a small pile of meat on it – which the waitress “helpfully” suggested could be pushed to one side to turn it into the vegetarian dish requested. This would have been less irritating had we not spotted, some minutes later, two local men eating a very obviously vegetarian aubergine dish!
Favorite Dish: No favourite dishes, unsurprisingly, but the beer was refreshing and the prices very reasonable – 4,000 som for our shashliks, for instance, which is less than £2 or about $3.
On our last evening in Uzbekistan Marat arranged for as many of us as wanted to, to have a final farewell dinner in a restaurant run in a family home in the city’s suburbs. This was a lovely occasion. A long table was set for us on a raised balcony in the leafy courtyard of the house, laden with various salads, bread and fruit. After the salads we were served a selection of samsas, which are little pastries filled with meat or vegetables (almost like a miniature Cornish pasty) – I particularly liked the spinach one. These were followed by a soup with chick peas and then a dish I hadn’t had elsewhere: a roll of a pasta-like dough filled with meat, a bit like a large manty. The meal ended with slices of juicy water melon and cake. To drink we had bottled water and Uzbek wine – I chose some red but found it bizarrely sweet and not to my taste. This feast cost us just 8,500 som each (about £3.50).
The one downside to this meal was that we had to eat it rather quickly, as most of us had to leave on the long overnight drive to Tashkent to catch an early morning flight (which ironically was delayed!) But before we left Chris presented Marat with the tips we had collected for him (photo 3), and gave a nice speech to thank him for being such an excellent guide and looking after us so well in his country and here in his home city.
This was probably the best of the actual restaurants we tried in Samarkand (the meal we had in a family home beat it for quality and variety however). It’s in a great location just across the road from the Registan (and right by our hotel, the Zarina B&B) – the perfect spot to unwind over a leisurely lunch or just a cup of tea after a morning’s sightseeing.
The restaurant is quite large and arranged over two floors; the inside ground-floor space looked OK but the real delight is the first floor terrace with both traditional and western style seating, and glimpses of the Registan’s madrassahs through the leaves of the surrounding trees. You can also buy shashlik here to take away, as they’re grilled in a separate cooking area out on the street (see photo 3). The friendly waiters speak reasonable English and will run through the menu for you, so no need to worry about any language difficulties.
I ate some tasty manty (small mutton and onion stuffed dumplings, similar to Chinese dim sum, served with a dollop of yoghurt) while Chris had a large bowl of noodle soup. We shared a round of non and a big bottle of fizzy water, and paid just 4,500 som (just under £2) for both of us.
This restaurant was recommended by Marat our guide and in our guidebook, so we were happy to hail a taxi on Registan Street and go to give it a try. It was certainly a much better choice than the Marco Polo where we’d eaten the previous evening. There is plenty of choice, and an English-language menu of sorts – anyone for “Roach pleasure” or a “bird dich” (see my photo of the menu, no. 4)?
We chose a couple of salads to share to start with, one made with mushrooms and another called “charm” which turned out to be a sort of coleslaw. We also had a hot appetiser of potato skins stuffed with cheese and mushrooms – very tasty. Yet more mushrooms featured in my main course, as a stuffing for the chicken “Karimbek”, but although normally I love them, these were a bit tasteless and the dish rather dry and dull. Chris meanwhile had the pork schnitzel, which turned out to be more like a chop, and was very salty. We washed these down with beer and of course had a round of non, and altogether paid 16,200 som – much dearer than elsewhere in Samarkand but of course cheap compared with at home (about £6.50 for both of us). The bill came as a tiny scrap of paper with just the figure scrawled on it, so we had no way of knowing if it was right or not! See the photo Sue took of Georgina, (no. 3) – the bill is in her right hand!
Favorite Dish: The potato appetiser was excellent, but what made our evening was out meeting with the group of local ladies at the next table, there with their children for what was evidently a “girls’ night out”. They were having a great time, with lots of laughter (gold teeth much in evidence) and I’m sure some sips of vodka between the glasses of Fanta! Eventually one of them (the lady standing on the left of Chris’s photo) plucked up the courage to come over to us, after several exchanges of smiles, to practice her little English: “Uzbekistan good?” “Samarkand good good?” – but that’s so much better than my Uzbek :) A lovely encounter to end our evening.