Samarkand: The Frontier Cuisine

Named after a city in Central Asia that serves an amalgamation of Chinese, Mongolian and Indian cuisine, Samarkand markets itself as a frontier and Moghul restaurant—reason enough for us to check it out. The restaurant offers three seating options—outdoors by the river, inside on the ground floor, or a cozy alfresco rooftop area (which we chose). National Geographic-type photographs of Genghis-Khan-looking Mongolian and Afghani people in ethnic gear greeted us—which was really cool. But to our dismay, the menu was that of a standard North Indian tandoori restaurant. We ordered the tandoori chicken ($18), palak paneer ($13)—a stew of cottage cheese and spinach with naan ($4)—and roomali roti ($4.50). The roomali roti was an interesting paper-thin flat bread best eaten fresh out of the tandoor oven, while the palak paneer was mild and slightly sweet. However, the tandoori chicken was way too salty and left us parched. Still, the ambience here is definitely the highlight. Though we felt tricked by the “frontier cuisine” pitch, the Nepalese-style roof diner is a great spot to just enjoy a lassi ($6.50).