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Cafe St.Petersburg

g
galleygirl Mar 2, 2002 09:10 PM

We had a fabulous time...Usually, it's equally about the food AND the company, but the cafe seems like a place where a lusty crowd is required, and luckily, we brought one!...The atmosphere is charmingly pre-revolution, tables set up in someone's parlor,and the staff is amazingly welcoming and patient; putting up with the questions of 8 hounds who had already started sampling the cranberry vodka had to be challenging, but Vladimir, our waiter, handled it all with aplomb, and did his best to educate us to the various intricacies of his mother-cuisine...

Think of this place as your spot for Russian tapas and flavored vodka tastings, because this is where their strengths lie...We opted for 3 appetizer, or "Zakushka" platters..The vegetable version featured 2 kinds of eggplant; a piquant eggplant caviar, with tomato and spices, and the intriquing Georgian eggplant, mixed with walnuts and pomegranate juice, one of the night's high points. So tart, what a tongue awakener! These came with various other pickled veggies, all brightly flavored. Our fish zakuska included 2 kinds of herring; one chopped with eggs, onions and apples, and the other pickled, and served with boiled potatoes. They were unsullied by cream or dairy..Smoked salmon and salmon caviar were scooped right up.. Our meat zakuska included the Russian version of carpaccio, with pickled beets, satzivi, or chicken in a walnut cilantro sauce, and several preserved and jellied chicken items that bore a strong resemblance to the preserved meats at a Chinese banquet...

We tried 3 different flavored vodkas, that were a wonderful match to the spicy, tangy foods. My particular favorite, the horseradish flavor, could go head to head with any smoked fish, and had me dreaming of combining it with my favorite sushi. The table favorite seemed to have been the cranberry flavor, which was sweeter than I expected, but emminently drinkable (and lethal!!); we decided by the second carafe..The lemon version was a slightly less sweet version of limoncello...All were served straight from the freezer in frosted carafes, their chilled texture enhanced by frosted thimble-sized shot-glasses..A lovely presentation.

We proceeded to Blinis, their signature dish.. Slightly sweet, butter-rich crepes, ("This is like butter-toast, I could just keep eating these", says Ben..), filled with smoked salmon and salmon eggs...I took'em straight, but everyone else adulterated theirs with sour cream. We also loved their plump potato varenikis, served with fried onions(perfect!) and sour cream. Smaller meat varenikis were sprinkled with fresh dill.

Okay, this is where you should stop. Main dishes did nothing to shake my preconceived ideas about Russian cuisine. There WAS a chicken dish, called Chicken Tabaka, a take on the pressed chicken under a weight one finds in Chinese and Italian cuisine, but, I didn't sample it...The Pokzharski Cutlet, or as the hounds translated, chicken snitzel, was an adequate, juicy version. The Sturgeon Tzar, or steamed sturgeon with spinach dill sauce, "Topped with Juienne fries", was basically a big potato pancake with a miniscule amount of fish hidden underneath..Clearly, the tzar didn't like sturgeon..

We definitely had some of their best, but we also ordered a large variety..When pressed for what he'd order if he brought a date here, one hound said he wouldn't... It's a lovely place to enjoy an evening in the company of friends, with live piano music, and earthy drinks, but it's not about fine dining.. Go with your friends, drink vodka, eat nibbles!

  1. m
    Ms. Bluebirds Mar 3, 2002 09:12 PM

    Unfortunately wasn't able to make it to Friday's dinner however, I have been here previously with one time being a date and LOVED IT! From beginning to end. I felt it was cozy & unpretentious which allowed ourselves (myself & date) to linger & relax.

    And don't forget it is Russian food, which in general is not a very exciting delicacy. But if you allow yourself to just enjoy the culture without over analyzing it you might be surprise... maybe there is a dish you can't eloquently articulate, but you walk away saying "that was good"

    And bonus... the waitstaff is adorable.

    1. h
      Hazelhurst Mar 4, 2002 10:17 AM

      did no one have soup? I am curious as to their offerings in that department

      5 Replies
      1. re: Hazelhurst
        9
        9lives Mar 4, 2002 08:10 PM

        No one had soup, although it was well recommended...just tough to share with 9 people..here is the link to their soup offerings

        http://www.foodline.com/search/menu.a...

        1. re: 9lives
          h
          Hazelhurst Mar 4, 2002 11:33 PM

          many thanks for your kind reply. I can imagine that soup might have been difficult with a gang but, well, you never know. (I am the person who would order it--to share, if need be)

          I wil check the link

          Thanks again for a vicarious pleasure

        2. re: Hazelhurst
          b
          Bricoleur Mar 7, 2002 03:53 PM

          I didn't do the recent run, but I'm a fan of their Solianka. The "fifteen different varieties" are hard
          to count (I came in around 8 or 9) but it's a hearty soup with a interesting array of textures, including some that are rather unexpected. It's the first time I've ever seen bologna used in a soup. :)

          1. re: Bricoleur
            h
            Hazelhurst Mar 7, 2002 10:07 PM

            thank you for your interest and for your reply. Solianka ("selianka") is, in my view, a great soup. It is open to adaptation--as all great soups are (e.g gumbo) but when it is in the right hands, selianka can be really fanyastic.

            I've not been to Boston in many years but the comments on Cafe St, Petersburg encourange me to get back soon. Perhaps for a Sox game in early (not-to-hot) summer.

            Thanks for your comments. I hope to hear more about the restaurant soon.

            HH

            1. re: Hazelhurst
              g
              galleygirl Mar 7, 2002 10:42 PM

              Sorry we didn't have any soup for you guys.. :) For my money, the most interesting Russian food I've seen has been at a Russian deli/Take-out called International Bazaar, or Bazaar, on Beacon St in Brookline.(next to Rod Dee) I went in there for candy, and they had a huge smoked fish counter, smoked meats, a big glass case full of all kinds of pickled and coked vegetable dishes, cooked meats, stuffed things that looked like little chicken Kievs, or SOMETHING, stuffed fish, pickled fish, cooked meat and chicken dishes...All things that a Russian soul would crave...Very reasonable prices, nothing labeled in English(except $)... I bought a fish fried in butter and herbs, I think...When i asked what it was, the woman said, "Feesh"...When i asked what kind, she said, "Fried feesh"...That's all I know..It cost $4..It was damned good...I'm going back for further exploration!

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