Thursday morning my friend's daughter had ice skating practice and round 1 of the competition, which we watched. Afterwards, we decided to go eat.
At first we were looking for a restaurant where other ice skaters had said they were going, too. After walking quite a bit, and meeting few people who knew how to direct us to this restaurant, we decided to just find a place for ourselves.
We walked into quite a few restaurants that we instantly decided we didn't like, and we joked that we're getting picky! Some restaurants looked too dirty, some looked too dark, and quite a few had people smoking inside. I try to be open-minded about food, but I am a somewhat picky eater, and many restaurants here serve traditional Kazakh or Central Asian food, super cheap and super-greasy. I am sometimes in the mood for plov or pelmeni or other traditional dishes, but I rarely am in the mood for the cheap-and-greasy versions of these foods.
My friend's daughter really wanted KFC, so we told her to ask people if they knew where that was. The answer: "Who's KFC?" They definitely hadn't heard of it, and I doubt Shymkent has a KFC.
We found a promising-looking pizzeria and crossed a busy street to get there, only to find someone smoking inside. We asked a passer-by if she had any suggestions, she recommended a place across the street, said it was really good.
We really didn't want to cross the street again, but we did, and when we entered the restaurant--smoke! But then we were told that the next building was the non-smoking part of this restaurant, so we went there. It was small, but light and airy, without loud music playing, and although every table was taken, we decide to stay. A worker had been sitting at a messy table near the back, and they cleaned this up for us. We sat next to the stand of yummy-looking desserts.
My friend had a club sandwich, I had a croissant with chicken, lettuce, tomato, and garlic sauce. The vegetables were fresh, and I could see other customers eating salads that looked fresh and delicious. The girls had chicken nuggets which were dry and they didn't eat, and also a cheese pizza, which they did eat. There was a large selection of coffees, but I wasn't in the mood for anything fancy.
For dessert I had a banana "milk cocktail" (like a smoothie), the girls had chocolate ice cream, and my friend had one of the best tiramsus I've ever had. Simply delicious.
The total for all of us--4 people, 4 dishes, 4+ drinks (extra water and coffee), 4 desserts--was 6000 Tenge ($40), so not a bad price. The places we'd passed up were probably cheaper, but I'm sure this was better.
The place is called Madlen, on Ilyeva Street, and we were told that they are located in Astana! I'd seen a restaurant called Madlen before, but had never gone there. I probably will try them now!
So now I know of one restaurant in Shymkent that's good!