Being at the crossroads of civilizations past and present has made Uzbekistan cuisine an eclectic mix of different flavors, ranging from Persian, Iranian, and Indian, to Chinese and Arab.
The national dish and most probably the one dish you will not be able to leave Uzbekistan without tasting is plov (also called palov or osh). Plov is a hearty mix of rice, mutton, shredded carrots, onions, and many other ingredients depending on which part of the country you are. Bread is a staple. The big round unleavened bread here is called lepioshka and is sold practically everywhere. Mutton grilled on skewers, shashlik, is popular as well, as it is in many countries of the region. Meat or vegetable dumplings called manti and a ravioli-like dish called chuchvara are worth trying, too. As for snacks, it doesn’t get any better than somsas, which are pastry filled with meat, pumpkin, and potatoes.
Dining out at restaurants is a good way to experience these dishes. Many eateries are available, especially in the major cities. However, one recommended activity is to head out to the various home style restaurants, which are usually located in the old parts of town. These often unnamed establishments frequently have beautiful courtyards and are arguably the best places to taste authentic Uzbek food.
Bars and Pubbing in Uzbekistan
Drinking like a local in Uzbekistan almost always means drinking tea. Tea is a way of life in this country, as it is in the entire region. In winter, black tea is preferred, while in the summer, a lighter green tea is the way to go. Teahouses, or chaikhana, can be found everywhere and is where many local men congregate. Those visiting the historic Silk Road city of Khiva can take a tea break at Parvoz (Mustaqillik 5 Dishon-Qala). This chaikhana also serves food and beer.
As far as nightlife goes, however, a visitor’s best bet will be the Western-style bars, pubs, and dance clubs of the capital, Tashkent. Wine, beer, and cocktails sold in these places, however, tend to be expensive, so bring enough cash. Chelsea Arms (Kakhara Street, Tashkent) is a popular English-style pub serving various drinks. Also in Tashkent is Club Diplomat S (Navoy Street, Tashkent), a modern nightclub that is considered the place to be for the hip and trendy Uzbeks. Visitors should dress up or risk not gaining entry.
Dining and Cuisine in Uzbekistan
Plov is the national dish, and Uzbeks naturally want visitors to experience as much of it as they can. That is why in Tashkent, there is a Central Asian Plov Center (north of downtown Tashkent, in Ergashev and Abdurashidov) which serves plov in different variations. It is best to come here for lunch.
Those in Samarkand will want to try the local take of various Uzbek specialties. One of the most recommended restaurants here is The Old City Restaurant (A. Jomiy Street 100/1, Samarkand). Open from 10:00 a.m. to midnight, this restaurant has a small and homely ambiance, and serves well-loved Uzbek fare along with European-influenced food with vegetarian options.
In Bukhara, meanwhile, one good option for dining out is Minzifa Restaurant (Bukhara), located in the center of the old part of the city. This café-cum-restaurant serves a mean pilaf. The location is stellar, live music is provided at night, and there is a terrace overlooking the old town.