Chinar, 1 Shovkat Alakbarova, Baku Tel.: (12) 404 8211 www.chinar-dining.com www.saffron.az
Age. It’s a funny thing. When you’re young, you can’t wait to be older and to be taken more seriously. Who doesn’t remember the teenage years of plastering make-up on to a baby face, the secret ‘sophisticated’ cigarettes behind the bike shed and being offended when offered an ice cream instead of champagne? When you then get there, much faster than expected, you spend a fortune on cosmetics, hairdressing and clothes to look younger and not be dismissed as ‘past it’. There’s that step away from the mirror as you look at yourself because distance blurs the harsh reality a little, the frantic exercise to keep supple and youthful, the juice diets to stay slim and keep the complexion plump and radiant. And yes, there are those undergarments, passion killers the lot of them, that squeeze and tweak you into the right shape and which take half an hour’s undignified struggle to peel off. Sure, it comes to us all but we’re not going to give in without a fight!
I remember well at eighteen being invited to the glamorous 30th birthday of a very beautiful family friend and being completely surprised that all the men actually wanted to dance with such an ‘old’ woman. This very same woman told me years later “Age is like the weather, there’s nothing you can do about it, so you may as well accept it. Look in the mirror and be grateful because in 10 years time, you’ll wish you still had that face.” Wise advice. Still, I want to age gracefully. Like Cher. Like Fonda. Possibly not as hardcore as Joan Rivers. Natural Shmatural! Are you kidding me? Bring on the vampire lift! The grey bun and the knitting needles can wait!
As I gently glide towards my dotage, I find that the best rejuvenator, better even than bee venom moisturizer, lash enhancer, lip plumper and pore minimizer, though, Lordy, they are essentials these days, is the company of the bright young things. Not super young, you understand, I’ve done my mothering, but those that are right there at the pinnacle of life, clever, well travelled, well read and who have something to say for themselves. It was with such a dynamic duo that we headed off to Chinar, the Asian Fusion restaurant which for some time has been right up there, supposedly one of Baku’s best.
In the dark of an autumn night, it looked inviting with its fire outside and its intimate candle lit tables inside. It has a sophisticated festive air and the menu is enticing. As Chinar point out, Asian food is best shared, so we ordered a variety of dishes to allow us to try a little of each. As starters, we had Crispy Squid, Duck Spring rolls, Angus Beef Dumplings and Prawn Gyoza. The squid and the spring rolls were delicious, the dumplings and the gyoza were pleasant enough but not amazing. Our friends ordered Atlantic Black Cod and Wok seared Angus Beef as main courses. The cod was pronounced to be solidly good, the beef nice but not impressive. The lovely husband opted for Seafood Hotpot with Asparagus. This was tasty but, sadly, there was no asparagus in sight. My Chilean Seabass was okay, no more, no less. I found it lacked a little oomph, so I rummaged in my handbag to find the mini bottle of Tabasco I always carry with me to add a bit of spice and heat to the dish which improved it a little. For pudding, we had the cheese cake which was barely larger than a canapé and was adequate but not memorable, two sausage shaped Banana Chocolate Hurumaki, a fritter type confection, and a nice looking Crème Brulee infused with shiso leaves, which was good, if a little weak on the crackly caramel topping.
The incredibly slow to download website states that ‘Chinar has been a famous Baku landmark and meeting place for decades. Today Chinar offers a range of dining and entertainment experiences that are amongst the finest in the world.’ Hmmmm…..personally, I think that might be aiming a bit high. In my humble opinion, Chinar offers a pleasant environment and some pretty okay food but it is far from being the finest dining experience in Baku, let alone the world. If we’re talking finest Asian Fusion, Buddakan in New York (www.buddakannyc.com) springs to mind but not Chinar in Baku! Rejuvenation is the name of the game, not just for me but for Chinar too!
We paid AZN128.36 per couple including two bottles of wine, water and 5% service charge.