Despite being quite literally on the edge of the city, the 11th microdistrict is a pleasant, soviet-planned neighborhood with a warren of old apartments, shops and restaurants nestled among the tall green trees directly facing a park with a ferris wheel and a half-dozen shashlik houses that open outdoors in summer. Usually the shashlik isn’t very good, but the Arpa on tap is fresh and, for Bishkek, the setting couldn’t be better.
Barashek is… a little different. I’m not sure how much capital was pumped into the place. From the outside it looks like a rather unimposing (but cute) two-room restaurant with tented tables outside for summer. It’s only when you step inside that you realize the restaurant stretches back into the ground floors of the apartment buildings in back, and occupies a half-dozen rooms covered in wood paneling and blocked by great glass aquariums filled with wild grass. Everywhere there are curved and colored statuettes and motifs of sheep. We sat near the back, and yet the online guide has pictures of VIP rooms and wedding reception halls that I didn’t even pass.
We sit in a section with low black leather couches in place of chairs, sandwiched between a loud table of older Kyrgyz with softspilling guts, an equally loud table of mixed foreigners or locals who must have been from the OSCE Academy of the UN by their dress, and a demure middle-aged Kyrgyz couple who checked their bill five times over at the end and ordered a photo calendar from the roving restaurant photographer. The interior – was like a rich Bishkek dream, though slightly more subtle than the mic-mansions out here with all their bling (a surprising lack of chandeliers for once).
We sat down with a jovial co-worker, his Kyrgyz wife, and their very active three year old child (who had brought a pink scooter to the restaurant). They live but a five minute walk away and come here fairly often, mostly for the shashlik. Everything else is find, but done better elsewhere, and not really worth eating for the (slightly inflated) prices. The only thing ‘Greek’ about my Greek salad were the imported canned black olives, and our bill did seem a bit off (though we were, as customary among Turkish friends) too busy wrestling over the bill to actually check. But the shashlik… it puts the cafes across the road to shame. Perfectly pink, juicy, tender, roasted to outer crispy perfection.
So, in short – if you like shashlik and aren’t too short on change, this would be a wonderful place to spend a summer evening (provide you on’t collide with a wedding party, or enjoy the complimentary DJs). Its also definitely a plac eyou could go for a business dinner.
Our bill for four adults and one kid was around 5000 som – including some drinks, plenty of shashlik (Шашлык из баранины). The shashlik itself was 250 som a stick for a very generous serving.