Which ten restaurants would you most want to live next door to?
Seherli Tandir, in Baku, Azerbaijan is now on my list, but let me first explain the criteria. This is not about the best restaurants, it is about the ones that give you the most consumer surplus. For most of the “next door restaurants,” as I shall call them, you want them to be inexpensive, to offer some healthy options, to satisfy some of your cravings, to offer unique dishes, and not to take too long serving you.
It is not a mistake, if you are visiting Baku, to simply have each and every one of your meals at Seherli Tandir — the other restaurants in town are dominated assets.
The menu allows you to order three different types of cherry jam. Get the one in the middle, the sour one (don’t let them tell you that you should not be ordering a jam, and don’t put it on anything, just eat it).
Have I had better yogurts and rices? Order the little dumplings with sumac (gurza), asking for yogurt sauce on the side. The qutabs — thin breads stuffed with either pumpkin or meat — are the surprise knock-outs. The soups, the stews, the dolmeh. Did I mention the pilaf with the chestnuts? The “tandir” bread-baking oven in the middle of the restaurant?
The typical entree costs about $4-6. And the staff is friendly and helpful.
The restaurant is located in the old city, on the “restaurant street,” near four or five other excellent but nonetheless inferior options (when in doubt in those order dishes with pomegranate seeds). Go to the tower, and start walking up to the right, maybe 5-7 minutes. No taxi can take you there, as it is in a pedestrian zone. Simply ask when you get lost, as the restaurant is quite famous. You can’t make a reservation and may need to wait out in the sun, thus another reason why it should be next to my home
In general, Azerbaijani food lies in the space between Persian and Georgian cuisines, a double yum.
Which other restaurants should be in the top ten you want right next to your home? And why aren’t those restaurants simply the best period?
p.s. watermelon jam tastes better than you think.