Quick – name the country where Samarkand is located? Yep -it’s a tough one and a trip to an Uzbek restaurant is probably as close as I am ever likely to get to Uzbekistan. So last week our London food blog made the trip to Smarkand – the newly opened Uzbek restaurant – in Fitzrovia – and it was a very fine time. Let me take you there too.
The beautiful Samarkand claims to be the birthplace of Astronomy
Reached through an enchanting foyer of wonderful blue, the restaurant is beautifully appointed with glazed tiles, hand carved wooden columns, twinkly star lights (Samarkand claims to be the birthplace of Astronomy) and a wonderful bar next to an open view and nicely lit kitchen. In the bar the professionals do wonderful things with spirits and fruit juices to make some very exotic mixtures and – if that is not entertainment enough – there is a Vodka showcase which displays some truly extraordinary variations on the basic water/alcohol mixture theme. How about coffee flavoured, herb flavoured, one called Demon Verbena or even Vodka poured over duck fat..? If this is your thing – you will be in heaven here. However – I was there for the food.
Part of the early evening was spent chopping and rolling up a mix of Onions, Lamb and Wagyu beef into a traditional dumpling dish known as a Manti. These were later served as a starter and proved tasty though it must be added that professionals make airtight versions of the Manti – unlike mine – which trap the flavours and so are much improved over mine. If you like dumplings – make them airtight and they will delight. But in case you were wondering it is not the tradition to have the guests do this.
Other appetizers included a delicious pastry dish called a Somsa which was Pumpkin filled and flavoured with Cumin and also a delicious grilled Aubergine dish – Baklajon – reminiscent of Babaganoush but served with a sort of toast Melba and a pomegranate garnish. This was a delightful variant on the versatile Aubergine.
On then to the main of the Uzbek traditional menu – the Plov – a dish consisting of slow cooked beef shank on a bed of deliciously flavoured rice, carrot, onions and chickpeas. This then is a hearty meal for sure and will sit you in good stead for a night of Vodka tasting. Be warned – it is a filling dish you will eat very fast – having that all the elemental essences of food your body craves. Enjoy – I certainly did – the fine flavours mixing delightfully with the beef.
No Uzbek meal is complete without a dessert and this night was no exception. A poached pear garnished with Chilli and Lime followed along with an Uzbek variation of Baklava – the Baklava cake – a fine dish which if I am honest – bears only a similarity in name to Baklava – but is every bit as enjoyable for its own sake being lightly flavoured with Mace. Have some and forget the namesake.
What can I say about Samarkand – the restaurant: Delightful and intriguing décor, first rate service from knowledgeable and conscientious staff who aim to please and impress serving unique and delicious food and drink without getting too precious or too pricy.
In summary – if you are a curious gastronome or just plain hungry for something tasty and different or even looking for something new in Vodka- you will not go wrong in Samarkand.
33 Charlotte Street