First published in The Times of Central Asia, January 2013.
A heavy wooden front door, cathedral-esque; inside is more sturdy wood, but any impression of sanctity gives way instead to what resembles a homely beer cellar. I spy Moldovan borsch on the menu, and can’t resist. Elsewhere are cabbage rolls, fish, cutlets, several steaks, including one named Ossuary, interestingly: pork.
My eye is caught by a dish labelled simply, or grandly, Moldova. Any food that deigns to bear the name of a country must be attempted. It’s an ambassadorial challenge for cuisine: imagine a plate of Iceland, a bowl of the Philippines, a platter of Djibouti.
The borsch arrives, with dark brown bread. At first I can’t place what’s different, it has all the usual shredded beetroot and potato, but there’s something else, perhaps butter or a stock. As with the naked lunch, the answer appears at the end of your cutlery: small pork pieces. I’ve had an enormous meaty bone shipwrecked in borsch previously, and quite prefer the tastier Moldovan version.
Next to arrive is what looks a small clay pot, but Tardis-like containing great quantities of broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, tomato, cucumber, sweetcorn, and strips of veal, lightly peppered under a layer of cheese: Moldova. This is hearty fare, a sort of English Sunday roast dinner all in one, and requiring concentrated demolition.
Arriving at completion, a half-thought emerges, that the stuffed clay pot, and the beer cellar motif – decorative barrel overhead – is apt, it’s a country that’s been kept in storage and is straining, bursting to be discovered, nestled between its much larger neighbours Ukraine and Romania.
The time for geo-pondering is over, the bill slides into view, and all together it’s a rather reasonable 640 som. Moldova also does business lunches, and runs a 5% discount card scheme.
Location: Turusbekov / Kiev streets