I am in Ashgabat and heading out in a couple days. I flew in from Balkanabat today and people on the flight not only sat in their assigned seats (which is not always the case), it was even more full of win since I scored an exit row seat. A few of us flew in together on our respective ways home, though I need to spend a couple days here tending to business before I go. One of the more seasoned expats, having spent eight years here, knew of a Chinese restaurant and it was great. It's not that the food was particularly fantastic, though it was relatively good except for the tepid and boring beef dish, but more that it was not food from the camp. After 7+ weeks there, you start to go a little crazy. Eat out you say? In Balkanabat you say? I have learned a secret. Every restaurant in town gets their food from the same kitchen. I know this because they all serve the same food. It's, well, it's just how things work here. New restaurant? OK, it's in a different physical location, but by golly they're committed to those same five dishes. In many ways, it reminds me of when I first went to training and stayed in Nottingham for six weeks and almost every pub-style restaurant served about the same 12 dishes. Yes, there were other options, but the most "British" restaurants all served the same food.
Anyway, we had:
* soup, which somehow showed up as the second to last dish
* rice (of course), which did not appear until the third to last dish which just goes to show that they are not a high volume restaurant always cooking rice
* cucumber with garlic veggie dish
* black mushrooms with peppers
* beef with green peppers
* chicken with cashews, onions, and chili (basically kung pao chicken, but not exactly)
* bread rolls, because this is Turkmenistan
Photographic proof! It was good except for the aforementioned issues with the flavorless beef dish. The black mushrooms were especially good. Amusingly, the menu had an English translation that listed them as "black fungus" which is technically correct, but somehow less appetizing sounding than just calling them mushrooms. I even have the leftovers. This is first-world success in a second-world country.