beef stroganoff with mashed potatoes
We wanted to experience the local dining scene in St. Petersburg so we asked our friends at SPb Tours to recommend something local but not touristic. They recommended a place called Sadko, and mentioned in passing that we'd like the ambiance.
The Mariinsky Theatre
Sadko is right across the Mariinsky (Kirov) theatre, home of Russian ballet. The exterior of the restaurant was so unimpressive that the conversation inside the van, as we U-turned to get off on the right side of the road, included silly jokes of being saddened by our dining experience (didn't help that "ko" is Filipino for "me"--Sad ko? Sad me? My sad?)
As soon as we entered though, all our doubts were dispelled by the cleverly done interiors.
The first thing we noticed were the imposing red chandeliers hanging from the vaulted ceilings. All around the restaurant were traditional handpainted flowers--the type of flowers you would see on Russian lacquerware.
Signed (by famous people?) dinnerware displayed in the middle of the dining room
The restaurant is relaxed, casual and unpretentious--just the type I like. I couldn't keep my eyes off the massive chandeliers. I thought they contrasted nicely with the simple tables and bentwood chairs.
If you look closely at the pictures, you'll notice that speakers, vents and airconditioning units are camouflaged with the same anthracite color of the walls. I like that kind of attention to detail.
Finally, after scrutinizing the interiors, it was time to order! We focused on the Russian specialties--borscht, strogranoff, pelmeni, blinis... and of course, vodka!
I noticed that a lot of Russian dishes are served with a side of sour cream. The beef stroganoff didn't come with a side of sour cream, but I know the recipe still calls it! G would like Russian food because she likes sour cream.
Pelmeni are like chinese dumplings. Imagine eating a siomai with sour cream? It was actually pretty good. The borscht and the stroganoff were also delicious. The guys on the other end of the table had more food but I was too engrossed with my borscht to get up and photograph their dishes.
The waitstaff was attentive, spoke very good English and got all our requests right. And then, in the middle of our meal, they surprised everyone (at least all those who were there for the first time) by breaking into song! Their voices were beautiful! We found out later that the waiters here are mostly students from the Conservatory nearby. Sadko, by the way, is the name of the main character in a Russian opera.
Our bill was presented inside this matryoshka doll--a nice unique touch. And look how the design on the stylized dolls match the design on the dinnerware. Did I already mention that I like details like this?
We all agreed that Sadko was a good recommendation. The food is good, the staff cultured, and in a city that can be expensive, Sadko is reasonable. I especially appreciated the interiors and the attention to detail.
Lesson: Never judge a restaurant by its exterior. It's not a book. :)
2 Glinka St.St. Petersburg