Orthodox, St. Petersburg 06-2019

We had to celebrate one night out in St. Petersburg and enjoy the White Nights. Even though the cloudy sky made it much darker than it should be in twilight, the little bit of rain didn't dampen out spirits. The English menu (and the Russian one too I imagine) had lots of famous poets with their inspired drinks and shots on each page. There were some ingredients we'd never heard of (a lot of them actually) and in some odd combinations too.

Watching the all Russian crowd around us, they seem to like the shot with khrenovukha (tastes like wasabi) and topped a salted pickle, and wash it down with the black drink (vodka, orange liqueur, red vermouth, honey syrup, squid ink, bear's garlic sauce and rimmed black salt from Kostroma). 

Strange tastes but at least we felt local for a minute. Some random Russians even cheers-ed us.

Teremok, Moscow 06-2019

On the first day wandering through 32C Moscow, Teremok was a cheap easy meal enroute to the Kremlin. Easy turned out to be not so easy as we discovered the underground tunnels and shopping areas to find it. But time wasn't of the essence, so it was ok.

Seredipidity that Teremok was my last Moscow meal in 2013 (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/teremok-moscow-06-2013) and first (well ok, second) this time around.

The gelatinous crepe was thick with good texture, but the filling is nothing like the pictures. They display it as a roll full of meat. It's actually flat full of sour cream or sauce. Overall alright.

Beef pelmeni were better than vegie ones, which were just potato mash.

I think I'm done with Teremok too (unless extreme circumstances...)

Khalol, St. Petersburg 06-2019

For the final meal in St. Petersburg it was a toss up. I really enjoyed the previous Georgian and Uzbek food, but I really wanted samsas again. I searched for another Uzbek restaurant and came across this local place with samsa mentioned within the 65 Russian (100% of them) Google reviews. It is also open 24h making it perfect for after drinks. I didn't have the stomach space to visit after Orthodox, so this required a dedicated trek there - in the form of Yondex (Uber takeover app in Russia).

This was as local as we ate during the trip. Even the local places before had more decor whereas this was bare tables, an Uzbek family in the corner, and minimal English spoken with none in the menu. There wasn't the luxury of previous places having a photo of each dish with the name. No matter, I had been enjoying these types of experiences recently. And the prices... my goodness. A full meal for 4 for 1260rub.

- Bread 35rub was huge, quite dense and heavy. Smelled sweet but tasted slightly salty. Nice but need to eat with something. We asked for one but they brought us 2. Way too much in the end;
- Samsa lamb 200g 70rub - unforunately this was a more dry baked type than the deliciously rich one I hoped for. Nonetheless it was ok and the filling decent. Still can't compare though;
- Lagman 400g 180rub - noodles handmade were a bit too soft. But the broth was thicker than Uchkuduk with a tomato/beef flavour and soft meat. Good overall and better than previous ones;
- Pilaf 300g 180rub - moist, a bit oily but not too much. Good flavour but not too strong. Nice balance from vegetables, chickpeas. Chunk of tender beef on top. A bit stringly but overall good;
- Mutton kebab 400g 330rub turned out to not be a kebab. It was braised and very soft and tender. Raw ingredients added balance.

I would happily go back, not so much for the samsas, but definitely for the lagman or pilaf.

Kilikia, St. Petersburg 06-2019

On the hunt to try Armenian food, I had come across two options. One was Erivan, a nicer looking place near the Alexandrinsky Theatre with more expensive prices and an English menu online. The other was Kilikia with a Russian only website and dishes than spanned a bit further. In the end we went for the cheaper (maybe slightly more local) Kilikia after the good experience at Uchkuduk.

It was nowhere near as local as Uchkuduk, with a local couple of Americans across the room, staff that spoke English, and a menu presented in English. No matter, there were plenty of Russians around and a private function also. 

- Pyurek (Armenian pie homemade style with beef, walnuts & cottage cheese) 300g 280rub - the pie was full of air, with a thin pastry, cheese and mince all of which was nice. It looked huge but due to the air, it wasn't in the end;
- Beans were good and slightly spicy;
- Aveluk (homemade Armenian soup cooked with mountain grass called aveluk or curled dock, with potatoes, onion, garlic & fragrant greengrocery) 250g 260rub - tasty with interesting grass coil (almost like a seaweed);
- Mutton soup with very soft meat, well seasoned soup, and a peppery/jalapeno flavour;
- Pilaf reasonable but slightly mild. Meaty flavour. Wet rather than oily/fatty. Chickpeas. Not bad. Hot chilli on top.
- Tava Kilikia (beef cuts oven-baked with vegetables & spices in tomato sauce) 500g 590rub - they told us in advance that it would take 1h to cook, which is fine. But the slowcooked beef was a bit average with some pieces soft, some not. Nice tomato flavour and peppers, like shakshuka. The acidity from the tomato had been cooked off nicely.

Service had 10% included which was fine. Overall the food was ok. I wouldn't seek out Armenian specifically, but I'd be happy to try it again.

Tarkhun, St. Petersburg 06-2019

After eating several different cuisines, the favourites were Georgian and Uzbek. There were a few different Georgian options to try - Khochu Kharcho which I so enjoyed in 2013 and vowed to go back but was further in a different direction, and Aragvi, Tarkhun and Adzhabsandal all in the same area near Bolshoi. In the end, I picked Tarkhun, not for any great reason over the others but just did.

Manezhnaya square had some live stand up comedy (in Russian of course) going on that evening. But our entertainment was a live Russian singer performing karaoke style in the restaurant. The English speaking staff were generally friendly and polite.

- Kharchapuri Megrelian style 550g 500rub - I dreamt of this moment, sharing kharchapuri since my Khochu Kharcho visit. Megrelian style means cooked with cheese and then extra cheese added on top. The bread was crisp, with lots of flavoursome soft cheese. Delicious;
- Kharcho - slightly spicy beef soup, warming, with a nice flavour but could be more spiced/seasoned;
- Georgian dish of vegetables like ratatouille without thyme. Just warm oil with lots of roast/vege flavour. Really nice;
- Mini-khinkali - mushroom mini dumplings were only ok. Not that much filling and no liquid. Definitely nothing compared to those as Khachapuri in Moscow;
- Chashushuli 300g 690rub - beef very soft in a minimally spicy tomato sauce. Nice vegetables;
- Odzhakhuri with lamb 400g 640rub - ultra soft lamb, seasoned potatoes which could have been a bit more crisp, but nice balance from the herbs, pomegranate. A single clove of raw garlic just for measure.

The samsas looked really good (although on the expensive side) but I would live to regret not ordering them.

It was a great meal and probably my favourite of the trip. Service 10% was included into the bill, and that seemed fair.

Cafe Idiot, St. Petersburg 06-2019

After my previous visit (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/restaurant-idiot-st-petersburg-06-2013) and with a renewed recommendation from our free walking tour guide, I was keen to come back. I remember sitting on the couch surrounded by books. This time I asked for the same, and the waitress said a firm "no". It was only for people waiting for the toilet. To be fair when I walked through it later on, it did have the toilet smell pervading. The rest of the restaurant is much less interestingly decorated. 

Complimentary shots of vodka arrived for morning vigour. I couldn't stomach it.

I wish I had read my previous entry as I ended up ordering the same things...

- Borsch with sour cream 300g 210rub - all vegetables and a strong vegetable/beetroot flavour. Quite nice although I probably prefer the beef-based options;
- Potato gratin with caviar 200g 620rub - nice vibrant caviar with a bouncy texture and very saline. Good potatoes too;
- Beef stroganoff (beef with white mushrooms & onion, stewed in cream sauce, served with mashed potatoes, pickled cucumber & herbs) 400g 790rub - quite small surprisingly with little meat. The beef was too overcooked cooked and chewy (an occasional softer piece). It was served on a cold plate so it chilled/congealed quickly. Nice mushroom sauce. Smooth potato mash;
- Mussels were ok but a very small serving. Creamy sauce was alright.

The service wasn't very friendly (not just the seating bit) and the food was relatively expensive and generally average. My second and final time in Idiot.

Uchkuduk, St. Petersburg 06-2019

After the remarkable samsas in Moscow (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/depo-moscow-and-batman-and-uzbeks-moscow-06-2019) I was keen to get another fix of Uzbek food. Chaihona #1 in St. Petersburg is at the Moscow train station and further than I wanted to travel. I found Uchkuduk on Google somehow and this little place had no reviews and the other branch had them all in Russian.

Indeed upon walking inside, the hostess looked surprised - what did we want her face (and maybe Russian words) said? It was an odd time for lunch at 1500pm but eventually sat us down with a smile. With no spoken English and no English menu, it was back to pictures and a decently functioning Google translate. Definitely worked well enough.

Unfortunately they don't have samsas... oh my disappointment.

- Beef soup 300g 200rub with slight spice, although looking at the menu and pictures now, I think they brought us the wrong one as I wanted the macmaba 300g 180rub (I also sampled the lamb soup 400g 220rub which was strong in salt and lamb fat);
- Pilaf 320g 200rub - very nice. Good rice a little chew, some flavour of fat and cumin.
- Lagman 400g 200rub - the classic spiced noodle dish I had been reading about. It had medium level spices, chewy noodles and soft beef pieces. It could have used a bit stronger flavour;
- Dumplings had a good skin, nice lamb mince, no liquid;
- Lamb chops spiced with a bit of cumin. Nice flavour and char but very very cooked.

Look at those prices. The flavours were good (could have been a bit more spiced and seasoned) but I'm not complaining. Great.

Baku, St. Petersburg 06-2019

To continue the culinary journey around the central Asian region, we found an Azerbaijan (or Azeri) restaurant. The remarkably high ceilings and colourful windows were quite unique.

- Kutabs with cheese 100g 145rub or lamb 100g 210rub - thin savoury crepes with cheese or lamb. Quite good;
- Eggplant rollls (eggplant slices stuffed with spicy filling made of nuts with aromatic herbs with garlic) 200g 390rub;
- Kufta (meatballs from veal, potatoes, chickepeas, broth, spices) 350g 560rub - a big mother meatball in a very savoury soup and soft potatoes. Really nice;
- Pulp of veal, eggplants, bell peppers, tomatoes, potatoes 300g 680rub - essentially a stirfry. Nothing special.

Warm bread came at a small extra cost. It was great similar to Turkish, and mopped up the soup very well.

Not my favourite of the new cuisines, but still good and squarely in there.

Dachniki, St. Petersburg 06-2019

We had one experience in a Soviet cafe, when arriving into St. Petersburg at 0755am and needing to bide time with luggage until check-in at 1400pm. Other than a (very very) long cafe break for coffee and smoothies, this restaurant just before the embankment Moika had a genial atmosphere in an underground cavern.

- Pelmeni - chicken dumplings were ok. Sour cream added;
- Buckwheat was very nice. Onions, slightly sweet. Bit of texture remaining. Not mushy. Much better than that I made at home...;
- Mutton fillet braised with eggplants & celery 590rub - mutton, peppers, eggplant, all stirfried and nice and tender. The sauce had a slight sweetness I couldn't place.