July 31, 2017

Back to Kazakhstan day 7: Astana architecture

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I'm going back to Astana today, and took a morning flight from Kyzylorda Korkyt Ata Airport.  As I waited at the gate to board my flight, I was kinda surprised to see two propeller biplanes parked on the tarmac.  Not something you see everyday...

There's a simple in-flight meal, with a sandwich, delicious passion fruit and nectarine yogurt, along with some knock-off goldfish cookies.

But I was much happier munching on my Lay's Shashlik (Шашлык) potato chips...

After checking back into the Hilton Garden Inn Astana and catching up on a little work, I walked over to have late lunch at Satti (Səttj).  It was recommended by a friend of a foodie friend as having the best besbarmak in town, so of course I had to check it out!  I loved the fact that the restaurant is open air and afforded diners fantastic views of the water fountain below and nearby buildings.

But this was lunch, and I thought perhaps besbarmak would be a little too heavy.  So I chose to order two "lighter" dishes instead.  But first, the hot weather demanded a cold and refreshing girlie drink...

Pilaf wiht lamb meat (Плов из баранины) - yes, there was a typo on the menu... Anyway, the portion was smaller than what I had expected, but I guess this place was supposed to be more refined...  And it did taste very refined.  The flavors were more restrained even with cumin, and there wasn't an over-abundance of lamb fat coating the rice.  Speaking of the rice, it wasn't overcooked at all.  In fact, dare I say that it was almost al dente?!  No, this wasn't the most delicious satisfying plov I've had in my life, but it sure felt like the most "fine dining" version I've ever had.

Manty with lamb (Манты с бараниной) - given I'm a greedy piggy and the portion of plov was on the light side, I decided to order some manty.  These were really delicious.  The minced lamb was great, and the tomato purée in the middle was a surprise.

I headed east down Nurzhol Boulevard (бульвар «Нұржол») after lunch, passing by many of the city's modern buildings.

In conjunction with Expo 2017, we've also got Astana Art Fest 2017 : Nomad Energy - where artists display their work in the pedestrian area.

The Bayterek Tower (Бәйтерек) is arguably Astana's most famous landmark, and there was a line of tourists waiting to ride the elevator up.  Some people mistaken attribute the design to Foster + Partners, but it isn't listed as one of their projects on their website.  The concept, though, seems to have come from President Nazarbayev himself.

Next I would come upon the twin golden "beer cans", which lead on to the buildings for the country's parliament.

At the end of the boulevard, at the edge of the eastern bank of Ishim River, is the Ak Orda Presidential Palace.

I could see the tip of the pyramid across the river, but with a heavy camera bag on my shoulders, I didn't feel like walking across the river to reach the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation - another landmark designed by Foster + Partners.

Nearby is the stunning Kazakhstan Central Concert Hall.  Here I spend a good amount of time photographing the building designed by Manfredi Nicoletti from various angles.

I take the long walk back to my hotel, showered and changed into a fresh set of clothes before going back to Satti for dinner.

Besbarmak (бешбармак) - I would finally get to try the dish here, as recommended.  I do have to say... just like the plov at lunch today, this certainly felt more refined.  The flat noodles were pretty thin, and there was just enough broth here to make it moist.  The kazy (қазы) was reasonably fatty and tasty, the onions soft and delicious.

I was most surprised by how much fat there was in the slices of horse meat.  Here the meat was tender, not dry like what I had at Alasha (Алаша) last week.  Pretty satisfying.

I went back to my room to grab my tripod, and walked briskly towards Bayterek Tower for the second time today.  I wanted to take some night shots with longer exposures.  Another long walk carrying heavy photo equipment, but at least I got the shots I wanted.

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