The north side of the Ishim River was kind of low key for me. I got to see the vast system of steam pipes that are suspended about 10 feet in the air down the streets, distributing heat to area buildings. I would love to know why they weren’t buried like in other cities that use such a system.
I wandered into the corner stores to peer into deli cabinets at what the locals came to buy. I saw a few good looking soft white cheeses (similar to Turkish beyaz peynir) various meats. Nothing too out of the ordinary. The Kazakhs seem to be big on hearty breads – not a bad thing.
I ducked into a cafeteria-style restaurant, got in line and did the point-and-eat routine. A strange light purple Kool-Aid style drink, nice soup with a dollop of sour cream, fresh bread roll being baked right inside the kitchen I could see, a beef and (mostly/nearly) reconstituted mushroom gravy over mashed potatoes, and a type of kofte (ground meat patty) with a fried egg on top. A few dollars.
But where was the beer??? I googled for microbrewery and damn if there wasn’t a place serving local beer just a block from this cafeteria (and 15 minutes walking from my hotel!)
It’s called Line Brew. They serve a few imports — German, Belgian — and three of their own (brewed at another location). They have a wheat beer and a typical lager, but I opted for the Karmeleit. I’m not sure what they meant by that – it was nothing like a Belgian Tripel – but it was a decent enough beer if they called it something else. Leffe Brown (yum) and Blonde, Stella Artois (yawn, sorry), and Spaten (YUM, but I need to be able to walk out of here) were on tap as well. Plus Hoegaarden, Stara Praga, Tsingtao (we’re on the Silk Road after all), and Lowenbrau.
Line Brew looks like a castle from outside, with stained glass windows. Inside is warm, inviting and because there were reservations on a few tables, I sat in back. It is a small room anyway, and I was a short distance from a live jazz band. Funky stuff with a bass, guitar, sax and drums. The first set lasted throughout my meal.
Pelmeni! The little Russian version of pierogi or ravioli. I love these things. Here they are served with sour cream. These are house-made. The waitress struggled with English at one point trying to ask me my choice of how to receive them. I had no idea what she was trying to say, so I just said, whatever is “normal.” I think she asked if I wanted them in broth or not. They came without.
I could see coming here for tunes and some of the special Belgian or German beers. The Kazakh beers were OK. The bar is close to the river which is worth the extra walk just to go out on the pedestrian bridge and take in the night.
And for a bonus, here’s my breakfast at Astana Art Hotel. Each day I had a couple fried eggs, but the last morning as I was rushing to get to a taxi, this came out. Wait… Twix?? And not even a full-size one but the trick-or-treat size? I laughed and took the photo as proof — but in fact it was just some stalling while they got the eggs done. They arrived on another plate 5 minutes later.
However, at the Rixos hotel buffet, they had an interesting item in one of the buffet dishes…
Is that a Pringle??? Awesome. That’s the kind of quality you’d expect at a $400/night hotel. I’m teasing, Rixos. I LOVE Pringles!
This is Kazakhstan? First Impressions in Astana