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What helps make Kazakhstan such a good place to live and visit is the fact that its society is composed of, and shared by such a refreshing diversity of ethnic groups, each with their unique cultural individualities and customs. Kazakhs are joined by, for example Koreans, Uzbeks, Germans and other groups such as Dungans and Uighurs, all of whom contribute to the thriving cities that are known across the region. Yet so too should we recognise the presence of a sizeable Russian community, immensely important to the prosperity of the country as well as the richness of the culture. And in few places can we experience the best of Russia better than in Namedni Restaurant.
To get to this restaurant it is necessary to follow one of the main streets (Furmanov) down from the higher part of town. Reaching the crossing with Makataev Street brings you to the restaurant which is in a Soviet building on the lower side of the road. The establishment occupies an extended area of the ground floor and boasts a garden complete with summer terrace. It shares its location with the Georgian Genatsvale Restaurant. There are two entrances although guests are invited into the main dining area through an impressive old door in very Russian style. Customers are welcomed into the restaurant with typical Russian hospitality, making it plain that this is more than a simple place to eat.
The layout and design of the eating areas are most impressive, undeniably reminiscent of many to be found north of Kazakhstan's very long border with Russia itself. The main room is fully decorated yet not over the top, the walls and floor areas adorned with tasteful ornaments and illustrations again very evocative of Russian culture. Although newly refurbished, the style does not lean towards the modern or the glossy. Namedni does not try too hard to impress, instead, its flair and traditional theme does the job quite adequately without the room being decked out with anything distracting.
The welcome is just as warm throughout the whole restaurant, service coming with an equal guarantee, from 12:00 pm till 12:00 am and 12:00 pm till 2:00 am on Fridays and Saturdays. Yet in spite of the impression the staff and the place itself makes, let's not forget the real reason people go to restaurants and explore a little some of what is on the menu.
Russian food is underrated. By this I mean that we do not normally speak of it in the same breath as Italian or French food, yet to many this is mistaken. Namedni has a menu full of delicacies and cuisine of predominantly Russian origin which tempt even those who are passionate about the food which European chefs prepare, and they subsequently do not disappoint. Top chefs working with Russian recipes find themselves catering to packed establishments every night of the week, and this is quite the situation in Namedni, their experienced chefs well-known across the city as consummate professionals.
For anybody not used to Russian cuisine, navigating the menu might require some assistance, although for sure this could be obtained from the excellent waiting staff. For a few recommendations, why not try the red caviar pancakes, a little different from their sour cream and honey counterparts but widely regarded a speciality worth coming in for. Then, among the many other meals you will see pelmeni, or vareniki which is jam in pastry, great as a dessert and also very popular. Kotleta Dumskaya is a type of rissole which many people order, and there are also the pickled dishes which are appreciated by not only Russians but those who are lucky enough to share this country with them.
Behind the eating areas is another very Russian element, the banya (sauna) which is perfect
evidence of how people across the former Soviet Union love to spend some of their free time, and why. The complex is a good size and kept clean and in good condition, so for anybody partial to a little heat, perhaps a sauna, consider using this service knowing that the Russian experience may not seem complete without.
When we consider Russia as a country, the biggest in the world, summarising the culture, both culinary and social, is not something that a single profile like this could achieve. Yet recognising that some of the beauty of the Russian way of life is reflected here in Namedni should be recommendation enough for visiting. The restaurant has an excellent reputation and in spite of the many things to do in Almaty and the great number of other places to eat out, people come from all corners of the city to dine here. It could be said that settling on one place for an evening (or lunchtime) meal is as hard in this city as almost anywhere else, but places like Namedni contribute to making the choice just that little bit easier.