Restaurant Review: Matrёshka

What: Russian food cooked by chefs straight out of Kahbarovsk

Where: 165 Shimen Er Lu, near Beijing Xi Lu. Tel: 6271 0385

Why: You need to up your borscht intake

In a city full of international dining offerings, Russian eateries are still a rare find – and those that do exist are often located in Shanghai’s Siberia. Hoping to improve this situation comes Matrёshka, a two-story restaurant with warm service and authentic Russian food at affordable prices. The best part? It’s conveniently located just a five minute walk from the Nanjing Xi Lu metro station.

The first thing one notices upon entering the restaurant is its namesake: a giant matrёshka or colourful wooden nesting doll. Upstairs, you’ll find Russian pop music blasting across the dance floor and Russian TV shows on the big screens, proving through décor that Matrёshka is primarily intended for the city’s Ruskie expats.

Still, whatever disappointment there might be over the environs are smoothed over by the authentic food made by Russian chefs. The soups, hallmarks of the country's cuisine, are a must. The solyanka (spicy-sour soup with pickles for RMB 40) is well worth its salt. Or rather, sour cream as the soup’s taste is directly proportional to the amount you add. For mains, the homemade pelmeni (Siberian dumplings for RMB 32) stuffed with lamb and veal is a winner, and the equally-stuffed peppers are an unexpected highlight as well.

And you can’t have a Russian feast without the vodka. Stereotypical? Yes, but let’s face it, it’s an essential part of the culture. Matrёshka has a selection of good Russian vodkas including Beluga Gold. Smooth and gentle, it’s a perfect complement to a hearty Russian dinner on a cold day.

For dessert, you won’t find classics like Napoleons or kartoshka (potato-shaped chocolate cake), but you can still go for some medovik (honey cake – RMB 30) washed down with strong black tea the Russian way – lemon and a lots of sugar.

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