What are the key elements of Russian food? I am not too sure, that was why I paid this famous outlet a visit to give it a try myself. One of the famous gimmick of this restaurant / chain is the vodka cold room where you can enjoy a glass of vodka (or other drinks) inside a huge transparent fridge. Yeah, you are right, based on the way I describe it, I really don't find it all that interesting. Anyhow, I do find it interesting that how come there are so few Russian restaurants in Hong Kong? I know there is one newly opened in TST at the Butterfly on the Prat hotel and there is one in the SOHO area as well. The bottom line is that there are very few.
The transparent vodka room / fridge is situation right at the entrance so you would not be able to missed it. The decor and environment is pretty nice but I doubt it is of authentic Russian decor even with the Matryoshka (nesting doll) on the shelf along the bench seats. The only thing that reminded my of anything Russian was the live band playing at the end of the dining hall. I am not expert in Russian music but it sounded Russian enough to me!
While waiting for my friends, I was going through the drinks menu and wanted to order a so-called Russian drink called Medovuha which consisted honey horseradish and lemon juice. When placing my order, the staff informed and warned me that this drink is not for everyone because it tasted like Chinese Herbal Oil which you apply onto your body joints whenever needed. The staff offered me some for tasting and yes it tasted ... interesting, not exactly what i call a refreshing drink but I actually enjoy the aftertaste for some odd reasons so I ordered it anyhow. (my friend tried a sip afterward and her description was the same as the staff warning, tasted like Chinese Herbal Oil ... HAHA) ... but hey, it was worth trying !!! (be warned though!)(1) Piroshki (Salmon / Mushroom / Vegetables)
They were freshly made for sure because they were HOT ! The bread was puffy and well prepared but somehow they reminded me of buns sold at Maxim bakery or Maria's. Among the three ingredient choices we ordered, I like the salmon and mushroom the most especially the mushroom because mushroom is known to generate moisture but the diced mushroom inside the bun remained relatively dry. They must be consumed as soon as served to get the best of out them.(2) Country Sausage with Sauerkraut
I love sausage, any kind in fact. I must try some German restaurants soon! Anyhow, the skin country sausage was very crisp and the meat was lean without much fatty or greasy feel to it. However, while it was rich in flavor without any sauce, it was rather salty. Eating it with the sauerkraut would help a bit definitely. (I thought sauerkraut is of Germany origin? humm ... )(3) Salmon and Mushroom Vol au Vent with Sour Cream
The main focus on this dish should be the pastry puff under the slices of salmon. IT was very puffy and crisp even with the sauce poured over it. There were no surprises on the salmon but the spinach was pretty good in terms of flavors especially together with he sour cream sauce.
I should have listened to my friends regarding this dish but I am a pretty stubborn person and without trying it for myself, I would not be satisfied even if it means I am wrong. So dumplings they were for sure. If weren't for the mayo sauce on top, this dish can be disguised Chinese dumplings. The only other significant difference I found was the meat which was rather tough compared with the Chinese style. Either it was incorrectly prepared or it was simply how it was done traditionally. I am not expert in Pelmenis but I will try to find out more. I wonder if Pelmenis have any Chinese origins / influences; maybe it was a traditional dish of the southeastern Russian Empire (or even further back in history) which was close to the boarder (or overlapping boarder) of the Middle Kingdom. Hummm .... southeastern Russian Empire .... northern Middle Kingdom where it is famous for dumplings ... hummm .... I wonder.(5) Blinis - Duck Meat and Cream Spinach
This traditional Russian pancake dish was a delight in my opinion with the soft and tender duck meat wrapped by the thin pancake layer. The highlight of this dish was the sauce in my opinion. It was the cream spinach sauce that added the extra flavors to the whole dish. A dish worth trying.(6) US "Kurobuta" Pork Rack & Shashlik
How can one come to this restaurant and not order this item for its presentation? It was a feast for the eyes. The torching touch added a slight grilled taste to the food which was nice. The pork was better than I expected in terms of tenderness because usually when I order pork chops / rack, they are often too dried and too tough to chew. Here they did a pretty good job with it. The seasoning / spices used were just right, job well done in my opinion.(7) Napoleon
Don't be fooled by menu for its desserts, they were actually not bad at all. Not really of traditional Russian desserts but good enough to end our meal on a happy note. Although the pastry puffs were not as crisp and puffy as expected but still above average. The custard was surprisingly not too sweet at all. Not a traditional style of Napoleon which I like but a fair dessert indeed especially with its presentation.(8) Apple Strudel
The upper layer of the strudel has been caramelized! A nice touch indeed, resulting in a crispy texture along with soft and warm apples inside. The decorated sauces were a nice touch indeed but a bit too sweet in my opinion.
(9) Apple Crumble
A freshly baked apple crumble, the dish was still very hot. Flavor was very nice, the crumbles on top were crisp and favorable indeed. While the apples were soft but the apple mixture / filling inside was overly sweet. Some cream would be nice as well.
Even after this meal, I am still not sure about the key elements of Russian cuisine, I think I should continue my food quest in search of more Russian cuisines in Hong Kong.Likes:
* Blinis - Duck Meat and Cream Spinach - Wonderful sauce!
* US "Kurobuta" Pork Rack & Shashlik - great presentation and pork surprisingly tender and juicy as well
* Apple Strudel - caramelized top was a nice touch for taste and texture
* Pelmenis - Chinese dumplings?
* Country Sausage with Sauerkraut - very lean but a bit too salty
* Apple crumbles - very crunchy oats / crumble topping but apple filling a bit too sweet.
Original Blog: http://jason-bonvivant.blogspot.com/2009/08/balalaika-lkf.html
(2) Country Sausage with Sauerkraut
(3) Salmon and Mushroom Vol au Vent
(5) Blinis - Duck Meat and Cream Spinach
(6) US "Kurobuta" Pork Rack & Shashlik
(6) US "Kurobuta" Pork Rack & Shashlik
Date of Visit: Aug 22, 2009 Other Ratings:
Value for Money 3