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Friday, November 04, 2005


Review: Kafe Sheki

Kafe Sheki

When you’re in the mood for cheap Azeri food but are tired of greasy lula kabobs and run-of-the-mill cucumber salad, head out for a place like Kafe Sheki that offers traditional kebabs with a twist and platefuls of regional specialties.

Baku has many such cafes, designed to remind urban migrants of their home regions. Kafe Sheki serves up meals typical of the mountainous region, omitting the six hour drive on bad roads.

An order of mixed kebabs comes with tart chicken breasts soaked in vinegar (toyuq kebab) and a house specialty --cubes of beef marinated in spices called basdirma kebab. The aftertaste is a complex blend of cumin and mint, rather than the usual palate-coating film of fat.

Another tasty and unique kebab is the bildirchin, or marinated quail. Also, a restaurant that serves Sheki specialties can be counted on for excellent Piti. Piti, which is sort of a chickpea stew with globules of assfat floating in it is, admittedly, an acquired taste.

Round out your meal with tea served with homemade cherry or raspberry jams. Tea service also comes with a plate of homemade sugars (ev gendi) to drop in your glass or eat like candy. The famous sticky-sweet Sheki halva is also a desert option.

Kafe Sheki’s atmosphere is much more agreeable than the white tile floors and molded plastic furniture typical of many small cafes. Snack on pickled zoghal (a sour seeded red fruit that seems to have no European or American equivalent), fresh pendir and white pickled cucumbers in rustic wooden cabin-like booths accessorized by sheep and goat skins. Strings of garlic, onions, sweet corn, and incongruously, a coconut, hang from the ceilings and walls.

With its décor that toes the fine line between kitschy and comfy, and its tasty kebabs, pickles and deserts, Kafe Sheki is a fine way to visit the mountains without dropping more than five Shirvan a person.

Kafe Sheki is located at 8 Axundov street, about a block past the railroad overpass.

Some dictionary definitions for ZOGHAL: cornel, cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), dogwood, dogberry-tree
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