Keen to find some go-to neighborhood joints, Eitan and I decided to try Angelina, a Korean restaurant, one evening for dinner.
The tree out front, perennially draped with Christmas lights, beckoned us inside, and soon the hostess was leading us into the dining room.
Two men were seated at a table by the restroom, but otherwise, the place was empty. Eitan and I sat at a table on the back wall.
The dining room itself looked as though it had started as a temporary structure and was later converted to a permanent one. The room was painted white with a tree growing in the middle and a bar to the side.
When our waitress appeared, I requested an English menu. Unfortunately, they didn’t have one.
This was not a problem, however, because I already knew what I wanted.
“Can I get bibimbap?” I asked.
The waitress stared at me blankly.
Stepping in to fill the language gap, Eitan conversed for a few minutes with the waitress.
Having sorted out some details, he turned back to me.
“They have a dish with a lot of meat,” he said.
As this wasn’t very descriptive, I wanted to know a bit more.
“What else is there?” I asked.
At this point the waitress leaned in, and in a low whisper, she asked Eitan a question.
“She wants to know if you eat pork,” he told me.
This hushed approach was a bit amusing. Plenty of Uzbek Muslims eat pork too, but I guess many don’t necessarily like to advertise the fact in public.
Once I admitted to eating pork, the waitress recommended another dish, although the only thing clear to me was that it contained pork.
Before we had come to Uzbekistan and during our first few days in country, Eitan had assured me he would help me navigate these scenarios since he’s conversational in both Russian and Uzbek. At Angelina, however, I could see he was growing tired of being the middleman, my seeing-eye dog, my Sherpa. The message was received, and so, from ten pages of menu, all I knew was that they had a “dish with a lot of meat” and a dish with pork. I didn’t get any clarity on the bibimbap.
I chose the dish with a lot of meat, accompanied by vodka.
In Uzbekistan, vodka is always served with a chaser, and on this occasion, I decided to try the curious jar on the counter filled with sliced fruit – the house compote.
Eitan and I drank our vodka and compote while we waited for our food, and we both agreed that the compote was a bad choice. It was so sweet and syrupy (as I guess it’s meant to be) that we ordered a Coke as a less-sweet alternative.
Soon the complimentary salads arrived that are served at most Korean eateries, and fifteen minutes after that, our food arrived.
As advertised, I was presented a big plate of meat with sliced onion on top. And Eitan received a big beautiful bowl of salmon bibimbap! If they had salmon bibimbap, I reasoned, they surely also had traditional beef bibimbap, which is what I had wanted all along. There was no point in making a fuss at this point, however, so I ate my plate of meat.
|plate of meat|
As we were eating, the two other diners were clearly taking advantage of the fact that the place was deserted. They kept demanding “Arab music,” and the bartender was quick to comply. Unfortunately, it seemed the restaurant only had one suitable number on the playlist, and we had to listen to the same belly-dancing song blasting through the room over and over again.
Eventually our fellow diners left, and Eitan and I were the only people left. The music returned to a normal volume, and the playlist was allowed to continue unfettered. The staff also took the opportunity to chat with us.
The bartender asked us where we were from and some other basic questions, and in turn, we asked him about the other offering at Angelina, karaoke.
He gave us a tour of the private singing rooms and left us back at our table with a few copies of his business card.
Then we settled our bill and bibimbapped on home.
The bottom line on Angelina: