Saturday, November 18, 2017

Seki Restaurant - Baku, Azerbaijan

Our first evening in Baku our guide, Salchin, took us to Seki Restaurant. I'd told him before-hand we wanted to avoid tourist traps and have authentic Azeri food. Salchin picked us up at our hotel and drove us across town through incredible traffic. At one particular spot we had to go through an intersection with four lanes of traffic going cross ways to us. Salchin just nosed his vehicle in, cutting off other cars, and made his way across in just a minute or two. I've never seen anything like it. Traffic was a virtual standstill and he got us across. We were dumbfounded as we watched it unfold. 

I'm not sure that Seki was not a tourist spot, but the food was great. The restaurant was housed in a three story building with a huge atrium in the middle. We were on the ground floor and there were patrons on the other two floors above us. A local band was playing near us, with unusual instruments, and they kept us entertained most of the meal. One of the men with an accordion appeared drunk and went off on solo tangents that were incredible. 
The band is against the wall to the left. The second floor is visible toward the top. 
By far the highlight of the meal was piti, an Azeri soup that includes the tail of a fat-tailed sheep. 
Fat-tailed sheep are about 25% of the world's sheep population. Most are found in Central Asia, the Middle East and Northern Africa. There are two types. The majority have broad fat-tails where the fat accumulates in baggy deposits in the hind part of the sheep, on both sides of the tail and on the first 3 to 5 vertebrae of the tail. Long-tailed sheep have the fat accumulate on the tail and it can get so long that it drags on the ground. 
Fat-tailed sheep. Note the bulbous, fatty rear ends. From Wikipedia.
Piti is eaten in two steps. First, Azeri flatbread is crumpled up, mixed with spices and added to a thick lamb broth. Second, a fat-tailed sheep tail, both fat and meat, is mixed with the lamb broth and vegetables (in our case, peas, chestnuts and saffron), mixed with more crumpled Azeri flatbread, then mixed together with a pestle to break down the fat and meat. Then it is eaten. In my case, for the first step, he had them give me some lamb broth with some lamb fat and it was quite good. 
Lamb broth with sheep fat (blurry).
The second step was an interesting concoction that was fairly dry, and well mixed together. It was almost like very light turkey stuffing on Thanksgiving. I would rather of had the meat and fat in the broth without the bread and vegetables, but it was interesting and okay. 
Mixture of lamb meat, fat, flat bread, vegetables and broth, mashed together with a pestle. 
We had some other very good food. We had eggplant rolls filled with a mixture that I think may have included walnuts, garlic and herbs, like this recipe. Fantastic flavor, mouth feel and I believe completely vegetarian. 
Eggplant rolls with walnut filling.
We got what looked and tasted a lot like Mexican salsa and had a great taste with a pretty good kick. I'm not sure what all of the ingredients were, but it had hot chiles, tomatoes, onions, perhaps some eggplant. Also extremely good. It went real well with the Azeri flatbread.
Tomato salad, like a Mexican salsa.
We got two types of cheese. One tasted a lot like Boursin, kind of smooth with lots of flavor. It was great on bread. The other was very bland, almost like tasteless sour cream. It was left mostly alone by our group of five. 
Two types of cheese. 
We had some kabobs, or skewers, brought to the table with a heating element and a fire to keep them warm. One was lamb, another was chicken and another was veggies, including tomatoes and peppers. Excellent.
Skewers of lamb, chicken and veggies.
We had a plate with two types of rice. One had some saffron in it. They were okay.
We got some baklava. It was very different from any baklava I've head before. It had little crunchies all throughout it, like little merangue balls, but a little harder and kind of irritating. Way too much of a weird crunch for my taste. It also had lots and lots of sweet sauce on it. It wasn't pure honey. I think I liked it better than anyone else at our table, other than Salchin, but a little bit was plenty.
Salchin introduced John and Susan to Azeri style tea. You squeeze in lemon, then put a chunk of colored sugar cube in your mouth, then drink the tea. John said it was way too sweet, he didn't like it. 
Teapot, lemon and colored sugar cubes.
Virtually everything we had was excellent, except the baklava, and it was interesting. I highly recommend Seki.  
Plate of food, including piti to bottom right.

1 comment:

  1. The restaurant was packed with what looked like locals. I thought the food was really good, the entertainment was top-notch, and the atmosphere was fun and lively. A place to go back to if we are ever in Baku again.