Doing anything here is a production. But going out for food is a PRODUCTION. For dinner, you have to block off an entire evening. For lunch, three hours of an afternoon. If you order takeout, you will be waiting for two hours. You can be the only table in an entire restaurant, and it will still take over an hour for the food to come. Items come at all different times. Service is always terrible.
That said, I go out for food at least three times a week because it’s the main form of entertainment here. Also, “going for a drink” in Astana is not something that really happens. You can go to a restaurant and just get a drink but it will take so long that you’ll need to order food at some point and then you might as well call it dinner.
Here are some of the restaurants that I like best so far and a map of more.
Outdoor seating, cheap Central Asian food, big portions, and they don’t mind when you show up super grubby from a long bike ride. I like the plov (lamb with seasoned rice), lagman (lamb and noodles), and lahmacun (Turkish pizza).
The number of drinks required after a steppe-ride on a hot day. 3+/person.
Georgian comfort food. As in Euro-Georgian, not southern US Georgian. This is hands down my favourite restaurant here. And it’s one of the only places in town that serves decent-tasting and decently priced wine. Beware that everything is huge. The first time I came here we went home with three boxes of leftovers. Favourite items include: Greek salad, lobio (beans), manti (dumplings), ajapsandali (eggplant and tomato stew), and my favourite – khachapuri (cheesy bread).
Guest appearance by Kevin! He is the first friend I made here and our hangouts mostly consist of eating and him telling me I’m not marriagable material.
Manti the size of coin purses!
Also I guarantee you will enjoy the man sitting by the door singing softly into a microphone.
Korean fried chicken. Order fries and whatever this is (yes, I am following them on Instagram). There are photos on the menu!
Korean > Kentucky. If I lived in Highvill, I would eat this every other day.
Temporarily closed but good food when open. Apparently one of the staff usually plays a xylophone and sings “My Heart Will Go On” and I was so disappointed that it didn’t happen when I went.
More beer with straws. Because I’m a lady.
Steak. Steaks! I’ve felt like garbage after each visit here but other people seem to love this restaurant, especially expats, which is why it made this list. It’s a little pricier here but you definitely get your money’s worth of food. I tried horse for the first time here (I ate smoked horse slices at a party but everyone said that didn’t count). Horse tastes pretty good but it’s so dense that I don’t think I could eat a whole steak.
- You must have snacks with you at all times. This is how I get through life here.
- Although wine is very cheap in stores, it’s very expensive in restaurants. Cocktails are expensive all-around and so I almost exclusively order beer when out.
- When you need the waitress’ attention, call out, “dyeh-voosh-kah”, which means “lady.” I realize that’s just how it’s done here, but it feels so strange.
- On average, I think I pay 3000-5000 tenge/$16-28 USD for dinner and a beer or two.
- Shashlik (kebabs) really vary in size. Meat ranges from 1 in. cubes (Turfan) to the size of a fist (Osoba).
- Though many restaurants seem to focus on a specific kind of cuisine, as you flip through the 50 page menu, you’ll see it ranges from Italian to Japanese. You could do a Bang-Bang in any one restaurant here.
Tips for Ordering
- When in doubt re: food, order plov.
- When in doubt re: beer, order Efes. The waitress will probably ask you a question after you order, which will be about the size that you’d like. I am too embarrassed to ask my Russian teacher how to order different sizes of beer so I just say “ball-shoye” (big) like the ogre I am.