While the cuisine of Ulaanbaatar may generally be associated with traditional Mongolian meat-based dishes, the city actually offers an eclectic dining scene featuring vegetarian restaurants, Irish pub grub and Sri Lankan fare. Read our updated guide to Ulaanbaatar’s 10 Best Cultural Restaurants to discover the city’s best venues.
Altai Mongolian Grill opened its first branch in 2006 and has since grown into a successful multi-national restaurant group, with six restaurants located across the globe – three of which are in Ulaanbaatar, with the other three located in China, Russia and the USA. The restaurant offers guests an innovative way of dining – each diner has the chance to design their own meal according to their personal preferences. Diners choose from a list of vegetables, meats, noodles, seasonings and sauces – which includes ingredients such as bok choi, bean sprouts, beef , mutton, handmade noodles and Asian ginger root sauce. These are then cooked by Altai’s skilled chefs.
Established by a native Sri Lankan with the aim of introducing an exciting, spicy new cuisine to Mongolia, Ceylonta is the country’s first and only Sri Lankan restaurant and tea bar. The restaurant’s menu changes five times a week, and all food is prepared by Sri Lankan-born chefs and made with authentic ingredients flown in directly from the island nation. Guests can expect to see dishes such as fish rotis; marinated sardines mixed with potatoes, served in roti bread; and black pepper chicken with bell peppers, tomatoes, oyster soya sauce, sesame oil and Sri Lankan herbs. Of course, a visit to Ceylonta wouldn’t be complete without trying one of its authentic Ceylon teas, of which there are 60 varieties.
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Legend has it that no matter where in the world you find yourself, you are bound to stumble across an Irish pub – and this is true even in Mongolia. Established in 2005, the Grand Khan Irish Pub is the perfect destination for diners who like to relax in a casual, informal and welcoming environment, while enjoying some hearty pub grub and a drink or two. Grand Khan Irish Pub’s menu abounds with fare evocative of the Emerald Isle, with dishes that include traditional Irish lamb shanks and Irish stew. The pub features a covered outdoor patio perfect for enjoying an Irish or Mongolian beer while watching the hustle and bustle of Ulaanbaatar’s busy streets.
Established in 1997, Hazara is one of the city’s long-standing restaurants, and offers a menu of authentic North Indian cuisine – perfect for those who like a fiery, exotic kick to their meal. A hidden gem, the restaurant is tucked away behind Ulaanbaatar’s Wrestling Palace, off the bustling, vibrant Peace Avenue. Hazara features a warm and inviting interior with simple décor, with a ground floor and mezzanine level providing plenty of space for diners. Wooden and brass tables separated by brightly coloured wall hangings give each table an intimate feel. Try traditional Indian dishes such as beef samosa, butter chicken and lamb biryani.
Located within the Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace, Khara Khorum offers guests a fine dining experience in stylish and opulent surroundings. The interior features bold bright pink walls complemented by gold curtains and wall hangings, while a central column is decorated in striking, intricately carved wooden dragons. The restaurant is named after the 13th century capital of the Mongol Empire, and befittingly serves traditional Mongolian fare, with dishes such as bantan cream soup – a soup of lamb, flour and onions – and the popular khuushuur, a dumpling filled with minced lamb and pan-fried. A number of vegetarian versions of Mongolian dishes and European dishes are also available.
When it was founded in 2008 by co-owners Altanzaya and Ariunaa, Luna Blanca was only the second vegetarian restaurant in the whole of Mongolia. During its six years in operation, it has become one of the most popular vegetarian eateries in the country. Established as a social enterprise with the aim of encouraging healthier diets amongst Mongolians, the profits made by the restaurant contribute towards the promotion of healthy food. Luna Blanca’s cosy café-style interior provides a welcoming spot in which to enjoy its tasty fare. Guests can choose from dishes such as the vegetariantsuivan – home-style fried noodles with carrot, cabbage, sweet pepper and soy protein.
MexiKhan, a restaurant serving authentic Mexican cuisine, boasts the unique title of being Mongolia’s first and only Mexican restaurant. Serving a menu packed full of this fiery fare, all dishes are made by the restaurant’s team of Mexican and Mongolian chefs. Dishes are based around locally sourced produce, including meat from the Bulgan province in the north of the country, which is widely regarded to be the most tender and succulent meat Mongolia has to offer. Relax in MexiKhan’s warm and stylish interior, with dishes such as the camarones sureños appetiser of tiger prawns stuffed with cheese and the chile rellenos entrée – green chillies stuffed with pork carnitas and melted cheese, topped with red sauce.
Namaste, a family-run restaurant that focuses on Northern Indian cuisine, first opened its doors in 2010 and has since grown to a further two branches in the city’s Sukhbaatar and Chingeltei districts. It should be noted that Namaste’s Flower Hotel branch is the only one of the three to serve an entirely halal menu. The restaurant features an elegantly decorated interior with dark wooden seating and vibrant red walls – the perfect place to luxuriate while dining on dishes prepared by Namaste’s team of Indian chefs. Dishes include the tawa mutton kebab – roasted mutton cooked in a thick curry sauce and grilled with butter and garlic.
The Turning Point Café is a cosmopolitan restaurant, bar and jazz venue, with a cosy and welcoming vibe, that has become a popular hotspot for Ulaanbaatar’s young, hip crowd and expat community. Boasting a contemporary interior, the restaurant’s design is sophisticated and understated, featuring white-washed exposed brick walls and an island bar. A bespoke jazz-themed mural by Portuguese artist Paulo Buchinho covers one wall, while window seats overlook a picturesque fountain. The Turning Point Café’s menu is predominantly European, featuring a range of light salads, snack food like panini, and hearty, warming soups. A number of delicious dessert dishes are also on offer, as are a wide range of cocktails.