The minuscule restaurant looked slightly thrown together: it resembled what I’d imagine a railway canteen in a central-Asian border town to look like, a place that time – and the fall of the Iron Curtain – appear to have forgotten. It was homely, with a chintzy, mismatching and rustic air that felt as though an Uzbek grandma had thrown open her living room and converted it into a makeshift café.
My friend and I took a seat at one of the booths that dominated the tiny room, and let ourselves be entertained by reruns of Russian-language comedy on the TV while we waited for service.
We wouldn’t recommend Uzbegim for vegetarians or anyone on a strict diet – the cuisine is meat-heavy, and the carnivorous dishes can be tricky to identify on the menu. However, for those free to indulge, the food itself is worth a punt. The lagman, it turned out, was a great dish of nicely chewy noodles and tender slivers of beef, with a flavoursome broth that was distinctly Asian in character. The hearty, gently spiced beef dumplings were also served in a broth, a little like wonton soup: in this case thick and heavy with the flavour of mutton fat. The stuffed cabbage offered a fatty sausage of beef and lamb mince wrapped in buttery, melt-in-the- mouth cabbage leaves.
The menu is simple, tasty and satisfying, as well as being easy on the wallet. It’s just that the frustration involved in getting that food on the table may well stay with you forever.
The bill (for two)
1x dumplings Dhs15
1x lagman Dhs20
1x pancakes with cheese Dhs20
1x stuffed cabbage Dhs25
1x cake Dhs15
2x soft drink Dhs22
2x small water Dhs4
Total (excluding service) Dhs121