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Friday, November 04, 2005


Review: Pork Chop Shop

Since Baku lacks a bit in the service journalism department and so many foreign visitors are in town to watch the ruckus, I've decided to post some restaurant reviews I wrote a while back for a local rag.

Pork Chop Shop

Nothing about Xayal Kafe’s dowdy exterior hints at the forbidden fruit served inside. But this little hole in the wall – known among expats as The Pork Chop Shop -- is Muslim Baku's swine speakeasy.

The Pork Chop Shop (PCS) sits on a chaotic street near the train station, tucked among cell phone vendors and currency exchanges. It's furnished modestly, with molded plastic seats. Azeri men sit huddled at small tables, sipping tea and looking askance at women who step in through the front door.

The claustrophobic upstairs “loft,” reached by passing through the kitchen (shut your eyes) and climbing a rickety staircase, is the ghetto. It seems to be reserved exclusively for women and foreigners. Anyone taller than 5’9” will have to watch their heads. Leader-for-life Heydar Aliyev smiles benevolently at the cockroaches that skitter across the dirty wallpaper.

No one comes the Pork Chop Shop for the atmosphere.

PCS’s small plates are completely unremarkable – stale bread, lifeless pickled cabbage and skimpy cheese portions.

But no one comes to the Pork Chop Shop for the salads, either.

I don't eat pork at home and when it comes to food on the road, my policy is to eat what locals eat and avoid things they don't. Pork in a Muslim country falls firmly into that category. But even I, a known swinophobe, could see that these chops are worth taking a chance on.

The chops served here are not your mother's chops (at least not my mother's). They are as long as your forearm, with a thick fist of glossy meat at the end. This meat isn't dull white or gristly or dry as a dishtowel like the chops I remember. It is caramel colored and dappled with the hot, rich kind of fat that pools up in the pan after you fry up your bacon. Cooked over an open fire, the fatty edge of the chop has a thin crust, no harder to break with your teeth than that on a creme brulee.

Thick and Glossy Meat

PCS also serves traditional Azeri fare – kebabs, kebabs and more kebabs. Even vegetarians rave about the potato lula -- mashed potatoes cooked on a skewer. Veggies have to be willing to overlook the occasional pork shrapnel in the potatoes, however.

If you want to ensure PCS has ample chops and cold beer on hand, it’s not a bad idea to call ahead. Price is no obstacle, even for the most impecunious. Endless plates of chops along with more vodka and beer than you should drink in one sitting should set you back no more than five Shirvan ($10).

Where else in Baku can you hit the trifecta (pork, liquor and cigarettes)with such style? This chop shop is worth going out of your way for.

Xayal Kafe is located on Fuzuli Street, directly across from the orange Milli Bank. Look for the yellow sign.

I love to eat chop because it particular taste. You can combine it with salad or mush potatoes. This is absolutely delicious, facinate me and i suggest you to prove it. Is sure you won´t be disappointed. This is specially for a dinner.

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