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Published: March 21st 2019
It’s no secret I like to eat.
I like the adventure of trying new things. I like the comfort of familiar old favorites.
I like to take culinary tours of the world even when I can’t travel. I relish the presentation. I crave the merriment of a meal. I like the experience of dinner.
Bottom line, I just really like to eat.
I won’t say that I choose my travels based on foods, but I also won’t say that I don’t. If a location offers unique and delicious food, it may tip the scale over a location not known for great cuisine.
In this case, I did not choose Almaty for it’s cuisine but I heard the city offered up some fine dining worth investigating and it did not disappoint. I was pleasantly surprised at the availability of interesting places to eat, the great lengths each establishment took in presentation and service and the intense variety of options.
Everyone asks “what did you eat?” and seem surprised when I report “whatever I wanted!”
I took great delight in
wandering around just to see what cafes and restaurants caught my eye. The toughest decisions I made each day were where to eat because there were so many enticing options. I swore I would not return to any restaurants so that I could try even more places but could not always keep my word.
When I left Almaty, I did create a list of regrets—things I wish I would have done or seen before leaving—and most of it was related to particular restaurants I wanted to try but simply ran out of time. This list may motivate a return trip.
I tried Georgian food for the first time and loved it, but not being able to return to try even more dishes was on my list of regrets. Also on my list of regrets was not making it to a particular Mongolian restaurant or any of the many Turkish restaurants available.
I went into one cafe because it’s exterior was so fantastic it made my heart swoon and what I found inside was shocking. I had the best ravioli I have ever had in my life. Ever. I still dream about
it. I had ravioli served up with homemade bread, wine and side order of incredible service for a grand total of $16.
True confession: I returned a few days later and had the exact same meal. I considered it research. I had to find out if it was really as good as I remembered or if I had just been exceptionally hungry that day. My research indicates it absolutely passed the test.
Each cafe was decorated so meticulously I often worried I was underdressed even for an afternoon cappuccino break. I would go with the intent of doing some writing and would inevitably find myself just admiring the details and decor.
The good thing was that I could afford as many coffee breaks as I wanted. I indulged at one locally owned coffee shop with a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant and the bill was less than $2.
My self-directed tour of Almaty‘s dining scene took me all around the city and I crossed paths with a variety of different meals. I found the beef to be of similar quality of the what we find in the States,
but I did not try hamburgers. I did have a few meals of braised beef neck, which I interpreted to be brisket. It was tender and flavorful even though I did not see any cattle herds when I ventured outside the city limits.
Don’t hate on me, but I did try horse meat and camel meat. I assumed I would dislike both, but did not. I just did not think about what I was eating during the meal and at my first meal that included camel meat I did not discover the meat type until I had finished eating.
I had great luck with pasta dishes and risotto that included seafood, pumpkin and ingredients I did not recognize.
Ordering was not always a smooth transition as I only speak English, but often the restaurants had an English language menu even if none of the staff were comfortable speaking English. It was kind of entertaining to see the waitstaff jockey around so they would not be burdened with waiting on me. In the end, the language barrier was rarely an impediment to getting a great meal.
I did not
go to Almaty just to eat, but I would consider returning just for the food!
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