Cafe Dali / Кафе Дали
09:00 – 00:00
Irkutsk is a mere 100 miles from Mongolia, yet due to the difficulties of the international border and the Sayan mountains which come between the two, it can be difficult to check out that country of Yurt-dwellers and horse milk. For those who can’t take a trip south of the border, Cafe Dali offers all the culinary delicacies of Mongolia right in Irkutsk, only a 10 minute walk from the dormitories. Here, you can eat horse meat and sheep fat to your heart’s content and still speak Russian.
While Cafe Dali is in fact quite close to the IGLU dorms, like many things in Irkutsk it is somewhat difficult to find. Part of this is because of its deceptive address, as the cafe is actually not very close to Trudovaya Ulitsa. The best way to get to Cafe Dali is from Volzhskaya – walk down Volzhskaya away from Baikalskaya. After you pass Ulitsa Karla Libknekhta, take the first alleyway on the right and then curve around to the right where you should see Cafe Dali on the left side of the courtyard. The restaurant is much easier to find if you use a map application like 2gis, so you might want to check out the location online or load it onto a smartphone before you try to go there.
Once inside, Cafe Dali is set up like most poznayas in Irkutsk. You order up at the counter and pay up front, then take your beverage and sit down at a table where you wait for your food to be brought out. Cafe Dali has a nice seating area with spacious, clean tables and reasonably quick service. Their menu is definitely their strongest point, with a very large variety of traditional Buryat and Mongolian dishes. The most popular options are pozy and buuzy, two different varieties of dumplings which can be filled with lamb, beef, pork, or horse. You could also try local delicacies like bukhlyor, a cyclopean chunk of fatty lamb swimming in a bowl of meat broth, or khorkhog, meat cooked with hot stones (watch out for small rocks in your food). For the less adventurous, I highly recommend tsuivan, a dish of flour-and-water noodles stir-fried with meat and veggies – the Mongolian equivalent of plov. All of the dishes are quite reasonably priced and you could easily get a filling meal for under 150 rubles (~$5) if you don’t get alcohol. Some delicacies like the Khorkhog do get a bit more expensive, but shouldn’t be much more than 300 rubles. The food is all quite delicious and the dumplings in particular are very fresh, unlike many poznayas which have reheated dumplings.
For groups and faculty-led tours, Cafe Dali would be an excellent choice, as long as you are confident that you can find it. There is ample seating and even a private room in back that can be reserved for large groups.