Almost every week we head over to Beta 2 or Orto Sai Bazaar at least once for weekly grocery shopping, or for a dinner when we don’t want to battle the downtown traffic. The problem is though that there aren’t many decent restaurants in the area. There’s Barashek by the 11th Microdistrict for kebabs and fancier fare (or just overstuffed interiors), Adriano Coffee for a Portland-esque escape, but all of the places we used to frequent have either closed their doors (like the open air Brazilian restaurant) or grown steadily worse over the years (like the Beta 2 restaurant). So this year we decided to try some new fare.
A few weeks ago we stopped by Aroma Pizza right outside of Cosmo Park. Considering that this is a chain restaurant and has ‘pizza’ in the name, I thought it was going to be terrible. It wasn’t. The service was prompt and courteous, the food was fresh, and the prices were decent. We ordered two kebabs and two salads. For a franchise, the kebabs were even better than those at Barashek – juicy, tender, just a tinge spicy. Our vitamin salad was flavorful and light; the mango and chicken salad came out with… honey-glazed ham and canned peaches on a bed of spinach with a bit too much oil. But other than that, everything was absolutely fine. Our bill for food and drinks for two came out to 1100 som after service – not bad. It’s not a ‘prime restaurant’, but we’d definitely go there again for an outdoor dinner, or before catching a film at the ‘English Movie Club’ at Cosmopark (finally some films not dubbed in Russian!).
As for the actual food and service… well, it was better than the joint on Kievskaya. But basically everything but the prices are ‘discount’. The chairs are old, the food isn’t fantastic, our teapot hadn’t been properly cleaned. We ordered a pizza margarita, and it was almost identical to the tortillas and cheese my sister and I used to make for lunch over summer holidays in our childhood. All of their salads seemed to have mayonnaise mixed in. For a restaurant, prices are normal, except for a token cheap item on every section of the menu. I think the place also imagines itself as a club (though having a three floor walkup to a club on iron stairs seems…not too smart), and there is actually a large disco dance room inside the glass dome that is the top floor of Cosmopark. I guess, compared to clubs the prices are low, but for a restaurant – eh. Their kebabs were more expensive than those at Barashek and Aroma.
Decoration: like Great Gatsby met a basement thrift shop. One thing I especially didn’t like was that, although we showed up around seven, they tried to get us to pay for dance floor entrance. As soon as we stepped in to door the hostess told us we would have to pay 100 som each (pretty cheap by Bishkek standards… for a club) for cover charges. When we asked again exactly what this was for our server told us it was for music and the dance floor – which would open hours later. So, no, unless we were going to stay, we didn’t need to pay. But there were a few other incidents that made me think the staff are trained to milk customers for extra money.
Overall Review: In summer the view is great. Come here for a beer or some iced tea in the evening (or before catching a film). Get grub elsewhere, and don’t forget to check your receipts.