Baku Eats

I’ve always enjoyed Mediterranean food with its fresh breads, greens, pilaf, and grilled meats. The flavors of Azerbaijan’s cuisine are therefore not alien to my palette. I do admit, though, that in the run – up to my trip here, I was eating pork like crazy. Even managed to snag a lunch buffet of Pinoy food with crispy pork belly in my busy schedule. Azerbaijan is a Muslim country, you see, and I was gonna miss my pork amidst all the beef, chicken, mutton, and lamb.

Our first Turkic meal was at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul during our layover to Baku. Breakfast was served on the plane but like what happens everytime you’re back on the ground, hunger strikes. Bought some rolled pita sandwhiches filled with meat. Delicious! Couldn’t wait to go to Turkey to have more of those.

Arriving at Baku, we had a late lunch at a small restaurant at the Old City called Hanimeli. It was very cute as the glass walls could be opened up.

The friendly server, a young girl, recommended this rice dish with beef (15 AZN). She even pointed out the four pieces of beef — two for each of us.

The rice was pillowy with a hint of butter and the meat savory and tender. There were tomatoes and a sweet-sourish fruit (?) mixed in. Very interesting flavors.

We also had qutab which are thin tortilla-like breads filled with either cheese, beef, or spinach (1.50 AZN each). Very tasty.

The go-to place for conference attendees at the Baku Academy of Music is Koz Kofta and Diner. Service is friendly and food plentiful. The toyuq kofta with rice (5.50 AZN) was delicious! I love Mediterranean meatballs and these were so tasty and grilled perfectly. What I truly enjoyed was the rice which was “fried” in an aromatic oil. The meal came with a large piece of fresh bread — crisp on the outside, soft on the inside.

One other time, I had the kofta with fries. The diner was full so we were directed to its sweet shop just next door. Also got an order of this meat-filled phyllo pastry (5 AZN).

The food court At the Park Bulvar Mall just across the Hilton is lunch central for some conference attwndees. Tried a plate of iskander, thin slices of roast beef atop a large pan of toasty buttered bread cubes. Covered with a parmigiana-like sauce and dribbled with hot gravy and served with a grilled green chili and a generous dollop of cream, it was so yummy. Like I-wanna-cry yummy.

Tried a different joint the next day which had trays of pre-cooked food behind a glass counter.

I chose a beef dish with pilaf and an order of what looked like a spring roll filled with beef (14 AZN).

Just a few steps away from our hotel is this small air conditioned joint serving what it calls “gourmet fast food.”

I guess in this case, “fast food” simply means easy to prepare rather than your typical Western hamburger joint.

Service was wonderful and the recommended lavosh wrap (6.50 AZN) was filled with lots of meat and very tasty. The burgers being devoured by the 2 Europeans at the nearby table looked good too.

Near the main gates of the Old City are a myriad of restaurants each with its own staff calling out to tourists to try traditional Azerbaijan Cuisine.

Manqal with its wooden tables and furnishings seemed to have a following based on the number of people there.

This was supposed to be meatballs soup but the waiter seemed to have brought me something else as sticking out of the bowl are two veal shanks. The meat was soft and flavorful anyway.

By the way, in seemed more like a stew than a soup with its oily sauce which I mopped-up with the bread loaves that seemed to be served all the time (which when the bill came, wasn’t free after all; but it just cost 1 AZN and it was really good).

Ma’m P’s order which we were warmed would take 25 minutes finally arrived. It was served in a small saucepan. It was some kind of a baked dish of layers of meat, eggplant, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes. The potatoes were a delight to eat as they were creamily soft. Ma’m P was quite full so I ate most of it.

Highly-rated and recommended is Sehrli Tendir also at the Old City. The place is quite small with just a few tables. I came at a half past one so I was able to snag a table. The large stone oven manned by a few middle-aged ladies making the large delicious crusty breads served to you indicates how homey and good the food is.

The dushbara, a clear soup with small dumplings was flavorful with hints of lamb and mint. It was so perfect with the bread.

For the main meal, I had a dish of chicken cooked in a skillet with tomatoes and eggs. Perfect with pilaf.

The food was really good. The kind of I’m-smiling-coz-it’s-so-delicious kind of good.

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