Monday, 26 July 2010

eating in Ulaanbaatar

When I told people I was moving to Ulaanbaatar they suggested I wasn't moving for the food; that every dish was mutton with mutton; that I would finally shed those extra pounds I've been carrying. How wrong everybody was. Contrary to popular belief the Mongolian capital has an exceedingly fine selection of fantastic eating places. So far my top 5 off-the-tourist-trail favourite haunts are:

1. Veranda: Overlooking the Choijin Lama temple be sure to reserve a table outside. The restaurant specialises in Italian-Mongolian fusion which is healthy, hearty and hedonistic. A great atmosphere and mixed clientele. The story goes that Veranda and the restaurant below were once the same run by husband and wife. They divorced, she took upstairs and is now kicking her husband's derriere. Tourists downstairs, locals upstairs.

2. Millie's: I thought I wouldn't like this place. How wrong I was. Millie has been in Ulaanbaatar for years and set up her cafe to cater for foreigners living here. It has none of the expat feel you get in other countries and there are rarely any tourists. It is for locals, Mongolian and otherwise. A fabulous selection of food given a Cuban twist by her excellent head Daniel. Millie herself is a delightful legend.

3. Sexy Jazz Lounge: I had to visit given its excellent name. It is a dark and moody place that serves up a suprisingly excellent burger and milkshake. A favourite haunt of office workers. I saw nothing particularly sexy other than the melted cheese and bacon topping and double-thick chocolate shake after which all sexy thoughts dissipated.

4. Hazara: A wonderful northern Indian restaurant situated behind the wrestling arena. My favourite restaurant decor in town, very zen inside your own tent. Too many fantastical spicy dishes to list; a great place to gorge over a number of hours if you have an afternoon or evening to spare. The best naans and saffron rice I have ever tasted.

5. Sakura: Masticatingly good Japanese cuisine at the Kempinski. A hefty menu served by lovely lasses. I ate the soba everyday while I stayed at the Kempinski. They also serve Chinggis in litre glasses; probably the most refreshing beer in the world.

I haven't included any overtly 'Mongolian' restaurants in the list, that's not to say the traditional, local food is not good, it is. Given the weather we have experienced thus far, Mongolian food is aimed at more wintery clientele, we will return when the ice comes. However, for the ultimate in snacking everybody should try huushuur, bansh, buuz and mantuu...

Mongolian of the day:- food :: khool