Poznaya “Kafe Hausbrandt” / Позная “Кафе Хаусбрандт”
Ул. Горкого 32
Meals from ~$3
A poznaya is a type of restaurant which serves the most famous dish of the Buryat people: pozy. Pozy are large flour and water dumplings filled with fatty meat and spices and then steamed until they became fragrant sacks of delicious, scaldingly hot grease.
In Irkutsk, there are a wide variety of poznayas ranging from cafeteria-style places near the central market to more upscale eateries near Skver Kirov. This particular poznaya for some reason has been named as if it were a Viennese coffee house and is a bit on the upscale side. Nonetheless, it is quite laid back and not nearly as crowded as some of the other poznayas in the center, making it a good spot to sample Buryat cuisine for the first time. Located in a basement down a dark staircase on the side of a rather decrepit old wooden building, the poznaya may not appear particularly inspiring at first, but once inside you’ll find yourself in a rather pleasant small restaurant with nice wooden tables and chairs, mirrored walls, and obligatory ’80s music videos playing continuously on a tv screen in the corner (these are generally kept at a reasonable volume).
To order, you’ll have to go up to the front counter, where a lone Buryat woman acts as waitress, cook, and dishwasher. The menu has a variety of soups, salads, and main dishes apart from pozy. Most of these other dishes are regular Russian staples like borsht, pelmeni, kotlety, etc. The prices for all dishes is generally between 60-90 rubles, although some items like the salmon cutlets do go above 100 roubles. Pozy are 30 rubles apiece and, as pozy are quite large, two or three of them can be considered a main course. I opted for bread, a bowl of lagman, a typical central asian soup with noodles and root vegetables, as well as two Pozy and a cup of tea. This was 179 rubles altogether, 114 rubles for the lagman and bread (the bread must be ordered separately), 60 rubles for the two pozy, and 15 rubles for the tea. My companions, some friends from the dorm, also opted for pozy, and sampled the salads as a starter.
Service is somewhat slower than at many Russian restaurants. This is in part because all of the preparation is done by one woman, and also because much of the food, with the exception of soups and pozy, is made to order — even the salads are chopped and mixed after they are ordered. As many Russian restaurants keep all their dishes sitting in display cases at room temperature, this level of freshness is quite surprising, and worth the wait. The food mostly met expectations in terms of taste — the pozy were nicely spiced and delicious, the salads were fresh and not excessively mayonnaise-coated. One dish that was quite lacking was the lagman, which was rather tasteless; I’ve actually had much better lagman in Chicago and will probably go for the borsht or solyanka in the future which were much better. Despite the disappointing lagman, the food was cheap and tasty, and the portions were ample and quite filling. Overall, this poznaya in an excellent place to try traditional regional cuisine in a friendly atmosphere.
For groups and faculty-led tours, the restaurant is rarely crowded, and a group of up to ten people could reasonably expect to be seated without reservations, though service might be a bit slow due to the one-woman staff.