The menu at The Silk Road is the most beautiful document in all of Missoula. It changes seasonally and there are usually fifty or so choices of mouth watering dishes from faraway lands, including descriptions that makes the drool slide out of my mouth and onto my lap. Hot pickled beets served over arugula with goat cheese and pistachios, from France for $6. Halibut baked with caramelized onions and tomatoes in coconut-pomegranate broth, from the Ivory coast for $10. Chicken cafrael marinated in ginger, garlic, green chiles, garam masala, tamarind and cashews, sautéed and topped with fresh mint, from India for $7.50.
The choices go on continuously. I dined there recently with a group of my girlfriends. While we were all studying the menu, I squealed in delight to my friend Erin about every delicious looking dish I came across, which was literally every single one. I even gripped her hand from across the table in awe that such a place like The Silk Road even existed. Maybe there is a god out there, I thought, and maybe he really does love me. And maybe The Silk Road was created as my heaven on earth.
It even kind of looks like what a restaurant heaven would be like. It’s located on the Hip Strip and there is outdoor seating, although we sat inside. The tables are a bit close together. It’s dim and cozy and rather romantic inside, with plum colored walls and curtains and a few large, aesthetically pleasing paintings of naked women on the walls. It feels like the dining room for a comfortable, happy house of a very cultured, intelligent family. I told Erin I wished The Silk Road was my home.
Our waitress explained that the portions are actually just small taster sizes and typically people ordered multiple rounds of dishes. That explained the prices, which I had initially thought were pretty low. My friend Courtney exclaimed this was great, we’d get to try more flavors! I agreed with her enthusiasm completely.
I ended up ordering the Weiner Schnitzel of chicken with lemon and cognac sauce (Austria, $6), the BBQ Duck Crêpe, which included duck legs slow roasted in sweet and spicy cinnamon-clove-tamarind sauce, wrapped inside a fresh pasta crêpe, served with fennel slaw (France $7), and the Cannelloni, which is pork and veal sautéed with onions and butter, infused with truffle and herbs, folded into cream and chicken pâté, wrapped in thin pasta, baked and clothed with manchego cheese (Spain $6).
As a group, we shared a plate of truffle fries, which are described as house-cut local potatoes tossed in truffle oil, served with artichoke-preserved lemon aioli (Holland $5.50). I usually hate fries; but that fancy truffle oil really made them the best fries I have ever had in my entire life.
The Weiner Schnitzel came in the first round. Immediately I noticed that the waitress had not lied; the portions were indeed small. The size of my fist, perhaps. As soon as I bit into the chicken I decided I wouldn’t worry about spending too much money on more dishes; I wanted more from this chef!
The last time I had Weiner Schnitzel was on a family vacation to Munich, Germany when I was eight years old. I remember liking it then, but not loving it the way I did as a twenty-three year old at a gourmet restaurant in Missoula, Montana.
What made The Silk Road‘s Weiner Schnitzel dish so good? Three things. One, the crispiness of the coating over the chicken was simple and not at all greasy. Two, the chicken was cooked to the perfect level of tenderness. Not the least bit dry. Three, THE SAUCE. OH. MY. GOD. THE SAUCE. I am dying to know what goes into their cognac sauce. It is slightly sweet and slightly creamy and the taste of wine is mildly present. It’s not a bold, strong flavor which I usually prefer, but rather, it’s a subtle sauce, which somehow, when paired with lemon juice squeezed over it makes it a sauce that I could not get enough of. I licked the plate clean like a dog that hadn’t been fed in a week. That cognac sauce is that good.
The BBQ Duck Crêpe was so so. I thought the sweet and spicy tamarind-based sauce made the dish taste more like it was from an Asian country than from France. (Tamarind is the base for dishes such as Pad Thai.) Also, I wasn’t expecting it to be as spicy as it was, although that might just be personal preference. Still not bad, though.
Erin and I each got our own Cannelloni plate. It looked adorable, similar to how pigs in a blanket is kind of a cute idea. Mostly it was cream and cheese, which is hard to go wrong with.
There were other dishes that my friends tried out which did not fail to impress us. One highlight was one that my friend Alison ordered: the Seasonal Mushroom Sautée (France $7), which has some sherry in it. For dessert she ordered the Lavender-Infused Panna Cotta with Flathead cherry sauce & basil shortbread (Italy $7), which I thought was too strongly lavender flavored for my palette, especially since I am not a big lavender fan. It did, however, have the smooth texture of flan, which was lovely.
I would strongly recommend you go check out The Silk Road for yourself. Their menu is a bit overwhelming, but if you’re looking for a fun dining experience which includes several rounds of gourmet foods from countries in which the actually silk road went through and you don’t mind dropping $25-$50, I say go for it. Life is no fun if your money always stays in the bank.