Canteen style places serving hearty grub for a low cost are a staple of the former communist countries of eastern Europe and the old USSR. I’d been tempted by one in Budapest and was hooked in by a mention of a place called Basilic on my second day in Almaty.
The place holds several hundred and feeds two to three thousand each day across its 24/7 opening hours, I’m told.
I’d expected the restaurant equivalent of a Trabant but what I found was a modern set-up with all the theatre of an open kitchen which included some massive steamers and rather bigger raging flames than I was 100% comfortable with.
I had also expected a slightly challenging language game, but the waiters had good English and their was a full menu in English, too.
Without being uncharitable, some of the dish descriptions had become a little tangled in translation but in a very endearing way. Highlights included an eclair served with a ‘gentle custard’ or salmon being described as a ‘noble fish’.
I was ultimately lured in by the ‘ultimatistic’ local horse sausage called kazy, then kept things fairly classic with Uzbek favourite plov. At the urging of my waiter I added one of their signature flatbread cakes.
The kazy promptly arrived accompanied by spice topped onions. It proved a bit of a mixed bag. The horse meat had good flavour but although it was quite fatty it lacked moisture and succulence. Anyone with doubts about the virtue of eating horse meat would have had those doubts fairly robustly reinforced.
The plov, topped with beef, was a good, hearty rice dish with plenty of aromatic cumin. It was decent if a little unremarkable.
The bread was probably the highlight with a good, fresh bread cake topped with sesame seeds.
So overall, Basilic was a bit of a mixed bag, but I was very glad to visit it. On reflection, I probably didn’t order to best advantage and I suspect it’s a place best enjoyed in a bigger group where you can order a bunch of stuff for sharing. Given the total bill was about £3.50 it was a cheap way to get a good feel for some of the popular dishes of the region, so I’d recommend a visit when next you are in these parts.
Blythe scores Basilic
3.5/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
4/5 for setting
3.5/5 for service
giving an overall 14/20
I ate: kazy, plov, bread
I drank: fizzy water
I wore: linens
Total bill: 1589 tenge
Address: Shevchenko Street 127, Almaty 050000