Monday, June 16, 2014

Regretful and Remarkable Noms From Russia

I just got back from a wonderful trip to Russia, where I toured until I couldn't feel my feet and ate, well, adventurously. While I did venture out and try several different Russian dishes, I was sad to discover that I am not a huge fan of Russian cuisine. Regardless, here's some of the food I tried during my 9-day stay in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Pelmeni




I had read up about these before I left, so I was excited to see them on the menu at Coffeemania ("Кофемания" in Russian). They're Russian dumplings to put it simply, usually filled with meat or fish — these in particular were pork-filled pelmeni. I popped one into my mouth, and I was neither delighted nor disgusted as they were just pork dumplings that were slightly too greasy and buttery for my liking. It would've been nice if these were accompanied with a sauce since the filling was pretty bland, but oh well.



Savory blini


Blinis are popular in Russian cuisine, and they are basically thin, crepe-like pancakes that are used for both savory and sweet dishes. This one from Teremok ("Теремок" in Russian) was kind of like a hamburger in a blini: On the inside was a beef patty with veggies and a peppery mayo-like condiment. It was an interesting sandwich/wrap, but again, everything was quite greasy.

Sweet blini


This was definitely one of the better dishes I tried during my trip. On the menu at Coffee House ("Кофе Хауз"), it was listed as pancakes with cottage cheese, but the filling was more like a ricotta cheesecake, wrapped around the same blini pancake. The center was slightly sweet and tangy, and the pancake was not as greasy as Teremok's. I went for the "with berries" option — for an extra 20 or 30 rubles — which came with a strawberry sauce drizzled on top and like half a strawberry -_-. Talk about misleading.

Borscht


Ah, the classic borscht soup. This was the only Russian dish that I had heard of before, and I'd never tried it, so I was curious to see if I'd like it. Turns out I do. Not. At. All. For those who don't know, borscht is a beet soup with veggies and a dollop of sour cream, which gives the soup a really pretty hue of pink/fuschia. However, this was way, way too sour, heavy and creamy for me to enjoy it. But hey, it was an experience. At least now I know that borscht is not my thing.

Chicken cutlets with mashed potatoes


These chicken cutlets were incredibly misleading. Maybe I was wrong, but I assumed, when I saw the word "cutlets" on the menu, that it'd be something like a katsu or schnitzel, but these seemed more like meatloaf patties. But regardless, these weren't bad! Loaded with spices and flavors, the chicken was indeed quite tasty ... minus one flaw: the grease. Oh. My. God. The massive pools of grease were enough to flood a small village. If I didn't have to use 80 napkins to actually get to the meat, these would've been perfectly fine.

The mashed potatoes were OK, but again, there was way too much butter in it — thank god for the olive oil drizzled on top, which countered the overbutteriness (that's a word, shh). Buttttt, the salad. The salad was ... I don't even know — sour? vinegary? acidic??? It had a very odd dressing mixed into the slaw, and I had a really weird time reacting to it. The verdict was that I did not like this definitely unique, kick-you-in-the-mouth dressing.

Americano, cappuccino and some kind of cake?


These were a pleasant surprise! We stumbled into a random cafe by the Novodevichy convent, looking for a place to sit and chill for a sec as we had walked way too much in an attempt to check out the famous site (where apparently all the famous Russians are buried. Too bad we couldn't read any of the tombstones and therefore determine who was there -_-). The Americano was deep, the cappuccino was smooth, and the cake, which kind of tasted like graham crackers with a sweet cream cheese filling, was nutty and altogether delicious. And everything was cheaper than the shops in city-center Moscow — a cup of coffee averages to about 150 to 190 rubles, or $4 to $6, there, whereas these were only about 90 rubles.

As you can see, I wasn't really wowed by the cuisine in Russia. And while I was disappointed at first, especially since we got McDonald's like three times, it was still a very cool experience. Also, I was in such beautiful cities, so I really can't complain.

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