Bishkek restaurant review: Moldova

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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 

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About James Willsher

Newspaper and magazine reporter since 2004, has freelanced in Russia and Central Asia, and does local government PR. Likes green tea and interviewing people / places. Phil Garrett was a pen name. @JGWillsher jamesgwillsher@hotmail.co.uk
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