Manty Bar/Манты Бар
108B Sholokova St./ул. Шолокова 108В
Entrées from 140 som ($2.75)
Potatoes are my favorite food; wrap them up in a dumpling, and I’m in heaven. Throughout my travels, I’m always keen to sample local dumpling varieties and especially happy when they include potatoes in the filling. Perhaps you can guess the first thing I ordered at the Manty Bar in Bishkek?
Manty are steamed or boiled dumplings common across Central Asia. Here in Bishkek, you’ll find them sold by street vendors and in bazaars and restaurants. The filling traditionally includes meat, onions, and spices with the occasional potato, however nicer restaurants will often offer a choice of fillings. The Manty Bar was opened with just that intention.
Located across the street and around the corner from the large shopping mall ЦУМ/TsUM, the Manty Bar was a little hard to find at first. Just follow the signs for manty though, and you’re on the right track. Sandwiched between giant commercial megastores, within a Soviet-era apartment block storefront, and next to a run-down clothing store is the shiny, remodeled restaurant. The interior is sleekly decorated in oranges and browns, and the décor gives a nod to traditional Kyrgyz culture with felt wall hangings, shyrdak symbols, and yurt imagery. On a Friday evening the restaurant was busy, with one section reserved for a party and nearly every other table taken. Clearly Manty Bar is a hit with locals, which is always a good sign.
Now, for a restaurant named Manty Bar, I was a little disappointed that the menu only featured five varieties of manty. The oft-praised but elusive pumpkin manty was on the menu but is only available in the fall, leaving four selections to choose from: two varieties of meat, chive, or potato. Our group of four ordered three rounds of manty for the table, along with three salads. The manty were delicious. Of course, I loved the potato, but the meat and chive were very good as well. Not necessarily much different than what you would find at other restaurants in the city, but very tasty. The biggest surprise, however, were the salads. Piled with fresh greens, vegetables, delicious dressings and even parmesan cheese, the salads were a welcome change from the little plates of shredded carrot or cabbage common in the former Soviet Union. Plus, they were gigantic: easily three times bigger than salads at most other restaurants.
For groups and faculty-led tours I recommend Manty Bar, though I would call ahead to reserve tables. In addition to manty, they also offer a variety of national dishes, including samsy and beshbarmak.