As the capital city of Uzbekistan, Tashkent is the right place to discover the flavours of the meat-heavy national cuisine. In the midst of an unprecedented economic development which is revitalising the local dining scene, Tashkent’s many new restaurants and cafés are on a mission to introduce the city’s residents to international cuisines and local fusions. Find out more in our guide to the best restaurants in Tashkent.
It’s easy to see you’ve arrived at restaurant National Food, as the restaurant is found just opposite the city’s circus. Most telling, however, is a group of women in white overalls stirring impressive quantities of food in huge cauldrons called kazan, right outside the restaurant, something that only happens at National Food. The staff speaks poor English, which makes it a bit difficult for non-locals to understand what is going on exactly: non-local visitors will inevitably take a peek at the cauldrons and order without having a clear idea of what they’re actually getting. Two things are sure: one is that it has meat in it; and the other is that it’s delicious. Chaotic, folkloristic, fun, satisfying and cheap – no-one visiting Tashkent should skip a stop at National Food for a taste of local fare.
A dinner at Japanese restaurant Assorti might come in a little expensive, but the experience is worth every som (Uzbekistan’s currency). The food is expertly crafted, and while the menu mostly includes Japanese dishes – the selection of sushi is particularly varied despite Tashkent’s distance from the ocean – there are also some options for Korean and European dining. But before your taste buds can be tickled by the flavours of Japan, your eyes will be pleased by the Oriental charm of Assorti. The restaurant is beautifully designed, rich with light wood, large but minimalist lamps, lush plants and comfortable couches, demonstrating a successful, contemporary reinterpretation of the Orient’s traditional interiors.
The idea of combining cafés and books is becoming increasingly common around the world. Book lovers know why: you enter a café, order a good cup of coffee and a sweet pastry, then you start reading your book of choice and let it bring you to imaginary worlds, while the coffee keeps the body warm and the pastry keeps the soul happy. This is always a unique experience, which BookCafe is pioneering in Tashkent as both a café and a bookshop where customers are free to spend as much time as they please in the company of books and magazines. For the best experience, sit in the café’s outdoor area and enjoy your reading as street life passes you by.
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April Verdant Restaurant’s menu includes a selection of traditional dishes, alongside a choice of Japanese and Italian courses. Local gastronomy, in other words, is not the restaurant’s focus. Nonetheless, a visit here is by all means recommended. Featuring two distinct atmospheres within one dining venue, the dining rooms in the main building are luxurious and richly decorated, while the terrace provides a more casual, relaxed setting while still embracing a sense of sophistication. Don’t be afraid, though: no matter where guests are seated, the food is equally scrumptious!
City Grill certainly deserves its reputation of being among the best restaurants to go to in Tashkent for a succulent steak. As expected, grilled dishes take centre stage at City Grill – in fact, the emphasis on grilled meats is something that’s also typical of Uzbek cuisine in general. Diners will be particularly grateful for the impressive list of local and imported wines to choose from for a great pair with their food. While both City Grill branches sport a refined ambiance, the newest location on Sharisabz Street has the added advantage of an inviting summer terrace. It is also recommended to families with children, as a whole room full of toys awaits to entertain the little ones.
A good exploration of what Uzbekistan’s gastronomy has to offer might well start at Tashkent’s Caravan Art Café. Here, customers can taste the fundamental dishes of Uzbek cuisine, including the country’s signature staple: the plov. Also known as pilaf, the plov is a dish of rice cooked in a broth and served with a topping of meat bits, carrots and onions. More than just about the food, Caravan Art Café also serves as a great introduction to Uzbekistan’s cultural life at large, seeing as it comprises an art gallery and a small shop of local handicrafts, and the fact that it’s often used as a location for live music performances of local jazz and folk artists.
First-time visitors will immediately notice that Sunduk Café’s menus are handwritten on handmade paper. A seemingly secondary detail that actually reveals much about this treasure trove of a café: if the menus are written by hand, imagine the love and dedication the chefs put in while preparing their exquisite homemade dishes. Join Sunduk to take a bite of traditional Uzbek cuisine with a lighter spin, and while you enjoy the food let your eyes survey the many fixtures that decorate this beautiful café. An eclectic but well-balanced combination of rustic, art nouveau and modern design elements make for a unique venue, and offer another reason to visit the café in addition to the tasty fare.
Yes, this restaurant derives its name from the famous film starring the late Robin Williams. The choice fell on Jumanji because the restaurant’s look and feel is vaguely inspired by the jungle. Three of the large walls in the main dining room are actually glass doors and windows that let customers see the lush vegetation surrounding the restaurant, while the room itself is furnished with curvy, bamboo chairs and tables. The jungle vibe extends to the courtyard, entirely enclosed by transparent panels, with more bamboo furniture and a gushing fountain at its center which sets a delightfully relaxing mood. The menu challenges Jumanji’s guests to choose from an infinite array of dishes, all equally delectable, and characterised by a creative fusion of Uzbek and Asian cuisines.
There’s a new restaurant in Tashkent which is quickly gaining a flock of aficionados for its combination of great food and laid-back ambiance. Barbaris Café opened in the last months of 2013, and was designed to do more than offer a solid – if somewhat unusual – meal of Italian and Japanese food. The café sets out to provide locals and visitors with a modern space to meet with family and friends in a relaxed atmosphere. The restaurant is laid out over two floors, both with seating but one featuring a more classic, stylish design, the other with a funky punch to it. Those in Tashkent looking for an exquisite dinner and a fun night out should definitely consider Barbaris Café – it will not disappoint.
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