April 2012: Spring in Almaty. Below, the Bozbash at Venezia in Almaty!!!

Bozbash at Venezia in Almaty

Bozbash at Venezia in Almaty

I got back from Tashkent today. I had to hit a Chinese place last night that was recommended by a colleague. It was amongst some Chinese warehouses so I was expecting something good. It was OK. The menu is excerpted below.

What is Douchey?

I came back to Central Asia to work for USAID in September 2009. I was excited to live in Almaty again, see Astana and all that had been built, fixed and burnished after billions in oil profits had swollen Kazakhstan’s treasury. I was also excited to be working next door to Inara, one of the best shashlik/drinking/dinner places in the city. I was so disappointed when I heard that they shut down. In this venerable restaurant’s place is a massive, glitzy palace of a restaurant. I was afraid to try it for at least a year as it looked like a place for rich folk to get hammered, and not too serious about food. Man, was I wrong. I hit it last year, and was served the classiest salad you can get in this town: Pringles and caviar are just awesome.

Also, the guys who ran Inara moved a few blocks away and opened a new place, Venizia, with similar fare.

Pringles and Caviar

 

 

The time has come to add to this awesome requiem of gastronomy.

Almaty, Kazakhstan

Pickles at the Green Bazaar in Almaty. Pass the vodka, my friend.

I was in Baku in November 2011 for an Asian Development Bank event. I had not been to Baku in 7 years and the city has developed considerably more than Almaty or Tashkent. In Baku, there continues to be a lot of esteem for traditional basement drinking pubs. I was happy to find fresh seafood in the form of small prawns from the Caspian Sea for consumption with my beer.

Caspian Sea shrimp

Fresh Prawns from the Caspian

But even better was the lamb mechoui on offer at a dinner hosted by the Azeri Government.

Azeri Mechoui

Azeri Mechoui

 

I am almost there in terms of restoring the Strategy Den Food Pages to their former glory.

This year’s vacation to Thailand yielded some excellent results. At the Jersey Shore, we used to dig up little, gray sand crabs for fun. In Thailand, these are sea cicadas that are deep-fried.

Phuket Thailand

Sea Cicadas, or sand crabs from the Jersey Shore

OK, but at least the Raya Restaurant in Phuket Town was some dead-serious Thai cuisine. Look below…

Afghanistan hosted the 2010 Asian Development Bank Ministerial for the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation Program. Since Kabul would have been difficult as a location, the event took place in Mactan in the Philippines. I had the some fine deep fried crispy pata in Cebu at the Golden Cowrie.

 

In October 2010, officials from Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited me on a cultural excursion to President Nazarbayev’s birthplace. I was hosted so well as to be served some excellent beshbarmak and horsehead.

 

It was a cold day last winter when I hit the Green Bazar in Almaty for some bizarre items like a nice plastic bag of spicy Korean cock’s combs. I think I ate most of them.

Almaty's Green Bazar

Spicy Cocks' Combs