With a fascinating history and awe-inspiring architecture, there are many reasons Russia should be at the top of your travel list. Although it may not be the first reason that comes to mind, Russian cuisine and the country’s impressive fine-dining scene is another top reason the ‘Land of the Tsars’ should be your next holiday destination. From delicious pancakes at Russia’s top fast food joint, Tepemok, to donning your best outfit for a degustation set at the fabulous Belmond Hotel’s L’Europe Restaurant, Russia has something delicious to suit every budget. Here’s our foodie’s guide to Russia to get you started (and hungry!).
Borscht, with its distinctive red colour, is one of the most popular everyday dishes amongst locals. It was so popular during the Soviet Union it is even rumoured to have been one of the staples for Russian cosmonauts whilst in outer space. This traditional beef, beetroot and cabbage soup is found on almost every menu, no matter the type of establishment. It is always accompanied with plenty of dill and a large dollop of sour cream.
These thin Russian pancakes can be eaten at any meal. They can also be served with many different accompaniments, depending on your tastes or even the time of day. A popular way to enjoy blinis for dessert is served with berries. For something more luxurious you will often find blinis served alongside your favourite caviar or smoked salmon.
Caviar – salt-cured fish eggs – is a Russian delicacy. It comes in many varieties from salmon roe to trout though the term ‘caviar’ is often reserved for the fish eggs of wild sturgeon. The most prestigious caviar around is Beluga caviar, found primarily in the Caspian and Black seas. You’ll find caviar most often served with blinis or eggs.
Pelmeni are Siberian dumplings filled with all different kinds of meat. This can be your standard beef, chicken, pork, or something a bit more out there like boar, elk or even bear. Black pepper, onions and various spices are mixed in for flavour. These tasty dumplings are always served with lashings of sour cream as a dipping sauce.
Legend has it that this well-known dish was first created in the 1800s for Count Stroganoff in his pink façade palace, still located on the Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg today. Since its origin all those years ago, beef stroganoff has become popular all over the world. Each region adds their own twist on the traditional recipe of sautéed beef pieces served in cream sauce. Beef stroganoff is most commonly served with mashed potatoes in Russia.
Another much-loved Russian classic main dish is the chicken kiev – a hearty fillet of chicken filled with garlic butter and coated in bread crumbs. Although the name of the dish would have you thinking it originated in the Ukrainian capital, the history of this recipe is not documented well enough to know for sure. There are many claims that the dish actually originated in France. Regardless of its origin this menu item is still found frequently all over Russia today.
The Russians excel at the art of ice-cream making and locals enjoy this treat even in the coldest winters. Some of the best ice cream can be found in St. Petersburg. Like anywhere else, ice cream in Russia comes in many varieties. Certain flavours are often used as a palate cleanser to accompany a meal.
Though Russians do enjoy drinking different varieties of beer, wine and liqueurs, Russia is particularly famed for its love of vodka. It’s a drink that is heavily associated with the country but it actually originated in Poland. Vodka is made from cereal grains and potatoes and is a popular accompaniment to any meal – served neat, of course.
Need some recommendations on where to sample these culinary delights? Look no further than these two picks.
Belmond Hotel’s L’Europe Restaurant
For those who love the fine dining scene, you can’t beat the degustation menu at the L’Europe Restaurant, located inside the Belmond Hotel on Nevsky Propekt. If your schedule allows, visit on a Saturday evening when you will be serenaded by a jazz band and singer while you eat.
Вкус Есть Restaurant (Taste to Eat)
Just across the river from the Asteria Hotel in St. Petersburg, the Вкус Есть restaurant is a short 5 minute walk away. It’s one of the best restaurants in the city. Translated as Taste to Eat, this restaurant serves Russian cuisine with a modern twist. The prices are great value and if you visit for lunch (before 4pm on weekdays) they offer a 20% discount. Make sure you try the savoury Tsblisi cheescake and the to-die-for scallops with celery root mousse.
If this has your taste buds tingling for Russian cuisine, head over there on one of our Russia tours.