Like many places in Bishkek, opening and closing hours are relatively subjective. It usually opens around breakfast time and officially closes at 10 pm
I woke up after a long night out with a craving for плов (plov). For those of you who don’t know, плов is a traditional Central Asian dish (most often associated with Uzbeks and China’s Xinjiang Uyghur people) that is made up of meat, rice, some vegetables like onions and carrots, and is often served with a little bit of cucumber and tomato salad.
A lot of people around the London School, like my professors and some other students, mentioned this place called Фаиза (Faiza) when I inquired about getting some good Uyghur and Uzbek food. Everyone said it was a pretty popular joint, the food was good and the service was quick. The decision was made. It is a quick walk from the London School to Фаиза. Just go south from the school until you reach Медерова (Mederova) Street, then head East on Медерова and it should be impossible to miss.
The place is always packed, which to me is a pretty good sign. There isn’t really any sort of official seating hostess or waiting in line properly. It is mostly just large swathes of people all pushing their way to the front to try and get their own table. It is all part of the fun, right? By the time I got my own table, I got about two seconds to enjoy some of the nice rugs on the wall and Uyghur style interior, until a guy came up to me and asked, since the restaurant was particularly packed that day, if he and his friends could come and sit with me. I said what the heck. I thought it would be a good opportunity to practice some of my Russian, meet new people, and potentially get a good story to tell later. The three of them came and sat at the table and we made introductions. None of them spoke English beyond a few words, so I was in luck for the language practice part.
After ordering my плов and чёрный чай (black tea) we got around to talking more. Turns out these three fellas were soccer players on Kyrgyzstan’s national team. I was sitting with Ivan Filatov, Maksim Agapov, and Karim Izrailov. To say these guys were larger than life would be an understatement, and they sure were some good company as well.
From three different directions I was getting blitzed with hundreds of questions. Why do you have a beard? Are you religious? Do you like Kyrgyz vodka? Have you been to Issyk Kul? You kind of look like you are from the Caucasus, is your family from there? What are you studying here? Do you want my autograph? Did you know we are big stars in Kyrgyzstan? They also seemed to think my Italian heritage was particularly cool, for some reason. I loved every second of it.
These guys were some of the warmest, and downright coolest cats I have met in my day, and were genuinely interested in who I was and why I was in Kyrgyzstan. Heck, they even knew where Buffalo, New York, the city I grew up in, was. The dudes were some big time hockey fans and even loved Buffalo’s NHL team, the Sabres.
By the time my food arrived we were talking about politics in Central Asia, and they were asking me to say good things about Kyrgyzstan when I went home. The guys loved their country.
The плов and чай were great. The restaurant is constantly packed, the food comes out fast, it is inexpensive, and some of Bishkek’s most loved young people come here. To me, these were all marks of a hip place and a good place to get some grub. The price for the black tea and плов came out to 160 soms ($3.10).
I met some cool fellas, I got to use my Russian, and I ate some good food, and all in an incredibly speedy and efficient manner. Фаиза, you definitely showed me a good time.