Bishkek is a nice city for just being. It does not have a lot of attractions and the few that exist I have already visited, but it has plenty of infrastructure to feel comfortable. Today was one of my first days since my departure where I did not have anything specific planned and the only two items on my agenda were going to the Bazaar again to find some souvenirs and having dinner with Kurmanbek and his family at an Italian restaurant.
Gastronomical experience in Western restaurants
As I had plenty of traditional local food in the past few days, today I decided to only go to Western restaurants. Breakfast I had in the same café as yesterday, lunch I had in a supposedly fancy restaurant in Bishkek’s largest shopping mall, and dinner in an Italian restaurant.
What all of them had in common: The prices are just ridiculously high, but aiming at tourist and business people, this is clear. But what separated those three restaurants was the quality of service and food.
At Sierra café, I really felt like in a European or American style café. The food was of excellent quality, the cinnamon rolls and waffles I had for breakfast really tasted authentic and the fresh orange juice was also of good quality. Combined with the good service, I really felt almost like home and it’s likely that I go there again tomorrow.
Lunch at “Sushi Imperium” at the mall was the opposite. I ordered a salad with duck breast on it as usually in restaurants that have Sushi but also all kinds of other food on their menu (e.g. Thai food), I doubt that the sushi is of good quality. However, the quality of the salad was not good at all either. The lettuce leaves were lying in the dressing for too long already, the tomatoes were cut probably yesterday, and there was way too much salt on the salad. And this for a price that would easily have gotten me a full meal at a traditional restaurant. The bad experience was completed by the miserable service. Even though they had around 4 waitresses standing around, it took them around 20 minutes to bring the salad and another 20 minutes to bring the garlic bread I ordered with my salad. And the restaurant was basically empty.
For dinner I tried an Italian restaurant named “Cyclone”. I wanted to invite Kurmanbek, my host, and his family to a different dining experience as they only eat traditional food. I chose that restaurant because it had the best reviews on TripAdvisor. And I have to admit, to food was surprisingly tasty. It was clear from the start that I wouldn’t be served an authentic Italian pizza, but my Pizza with onions, sour cream, and spinach was still very tasty, and the beef carpaccio for appetizer was also good. In addition service was also good, they managed to bring all dished exactly as we ordered it. In the end I paid a bit more than 30$ for all three of us. It is definitely ok for Swiss standards, but of course a lot of money for Kyrgyzstan.
The bottom line of my gastronomic experience: It is easy in Bishkek to pay a lot of money in a western style restaurant and there are plenty of them in the city center, but by far not all of them deliver the western quality you expect for the price you pay. Review platforms like TripAdvisor or also Google Maps however help you find the right ones. “Sushi Imperium” was the only restaurant that was not listed on any of the review platforms that I visited today.
One more day in Bishkek
Tomorrow is my last day of Bishkek. I don’t have a lot of plans yet, but what’s already fixed is that I will have to pack my bicycle into the box I got yesterday and prepare all my luggage for the flight. And in the evening, I am invited together with Kurmanbek to a wedding dinner of one of his friends. I am curious how that will turn out, but I was told that due to Ramadan, it is a small event, the big party will take place after Ramadan.