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St. Petersburg Restaurants

1913
13/2 Voznesendsky Prospekt
St. Petersburg
Russia 190000
Tel: 7 812 315 5148

Welcoming locals, expats, and visitors with the same lack of fuss, this homey place is as near as you'll get to dining chez your own babushka. A huge (150-dish), inexpensive menu lists the essentials and stars the best borscht in town. The blini aren't bad either, maybe with sturgeon to follow. Stick to the Russian dishes; get your pan-Euro and your pasta elsewhere. The operative word is "stick"—the portions are huge.

Café Botanika
7 Pestelya Ulitsa
St. Petersburg
Russia 191028
Tel: 7 812 272 7091
www.cafebotanika.ru

Café Botanika bills itself as "the best vegetarian restaurant in Russia (and maybe in the world!)." An overstatement, perhaps, but it's still worth a visit for its lovely Art Nouveau–style interior and creative fusion menu mingling Russian, Indian, Italian, and Japanese influences. The pav bhaji is served with ciabatta; "Italian sushi rolls" are made with arugula, yellow pepper, and pesto; and blinis are stuffed with cabbage or sweet farmer cheese. Don't be shocked to find Hezbollah on the menu, too: It's hummus, lettuce, tomato, sweet pepper, and parsley rolled in lavash and served with tahini. Café Botanika has interesting neighbors on Solyanoy Pereulok, the adjacent side street, including the Stieglitz Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts and the Blockade of Leningrad Museum. Note that a meal before or after a visit to the latter may be hard on the stomach.—Sophia Kishkovsky

Open daily 11 am to midnight.

Palkin
47 Nevsky Prospekt
St. Petersburg
Russia 191025
Tel: 7 812 103 5371
Tel: 7 812 140 1820
www.palkin.ru/eng/main.htm

Since the restaurant that was founded in 1785 and counted Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky among its regulars reopened in 2002, it's been the hottest haute table in town. Its czarist opulence is updated, its marquetry floors polished and ornate moldings restored, but it's the food that seals the deal. Maxim Krilov bases his menus on classical Russian cuisine, touched up with the classical French that St. Petersburgers so love: sturgeon baked in white wine served with crayfish and sautéed mushrooms, foie gras soufflé. Service is formally fawning, and there's usually live music to accompany.

Podvorye
16 Filtrovskoye Shosse
St. Petersburg
Russia 196625
Tel: 7 812 465 1499
Tel: 7 812 465 1399
podvorye.ru

So what if it looks like a set from Doctor Zhivago? It's good enough for Putin—plus various luminaries of the Western world, including Pierce Brosnan, John Galliano, and Prince Charles. Also, the quaint log house with a conical tin roof and a weather vane perched on top happens to have really good, authentic rustic Slavic food from any Baltic Rim tradition you can name—and some you can't: Moldavian Mititei with Mouzhdei sauce, anyone? (It's sausages.) Pumpkin soup with foie gras and berries, boar ham en croûte, and a huge array of spiced meats and kebabs grilled, most medievally, on open fires in the big courtyard are the kinds of thing to expect from a vast menu, some of which is listed with impressive cooking times. Unusual flavored vodkas (cowberry leaf?) speed the wait. This is an outing—it's 15 minutes by taxi from the nearest subway (Moskowckay Station) out of St. Petersburg and near the main entrance to Pavlovsky Park—but it's worth it, especially if you combine it with a trip to the Catherine Palace at nearby Pushkin.

Propaganda
Fontanka 40
St. Petersburg
Russia 191025
Tel: 7 812 275 3558
www.lenin-jiv.ru

One of the better examples of the slightly perplexing but fun trend of Soviet era–kitsch places—a youth cult thing. This one's centered firmly around the Constructivists: a low vaulted cellar done out in tank green and Soviet red, with cast-iron beams and perforated steel lamp shades. Not that it's altogether serious, with its soundtrack of chirruping crickets, music speakers with volume control on every table, and waiters dressed as Communist Boy (and Girl) Scouts. Food is better than it needs to be, from cold cuts and caviar to crepes with smoked trout, lime, and dilled hollandaise; pike perch with fries; and an array of burgers. The bar is open around the clock, and food is served until 3 a.m. Viva Rodchenko!

Terrassa
3 Kazanskaya Ulitsa
St. Petersburg
Russia 191186
Tel: 7 812 937 6837
www.terrassa.ru

The fusion menu at Terrassa—a rooftop restaurant with a blond wood interior, an open kitchen, and views of the Kazan Cathedral's majestic dome—somehow manages to combine the fresh flavors of California with the hearty fare of imperial Russia. There are variations on salad, sushi, and steak (the requisite trio in Russia's trendiest restaurants), and both the pepperoni pizza and the beef stroganoff with boiled buckwheat and mushrooms are excellent. By glamorous Russian standards, Terrassa is not priced to outrage, and at about $8, the house wine is practically a bargain. It's a popular spot for a late, leisurely breakfast (service starts at 11 am), and during the White Nights, when expats and tourists mingle with St. Tropez–tanned locals on the terrace, it seems like the center of the universe.—Sophia Kishkovsky

Zoom
22 Gorokhovaya Ulitsa
St. Petersburg
Russia 191186
Tel: 7 812 448 5001

Opened in 2004, this library café gets its many fans so thoroughly chilled they lose track of time. Soft white walls, rice-paper lamps, black glass-topped tables, and blue couches with striped pillows are the backdrop for the main event: books. "Tell me where you eat, and I'll tell you what you read" is the house motto, and the house supplies the books, along with the food. The vaguely health-conscious menu has an uncommon amount of salads, which are not necessarily smothered in mayo, plus soups, steak, salmon, fish cakes, and apple baked with honey and nuts for dessert. Though it's peripheral to Zoom's appeal, the food's fine, and beer, wine, and liquor are served to the young bibliophiles. When you're finished, the check arrives tucked between the pages of a novel.

Zov Ilyicha
Kazanskaya ulitsa 34
St. Petersburg
Russia
Tel: 7 812 717 8641

Of all the retro-Communist places, "Lenin's Call" is the silliest and strangest. A cross between a brothel in a '70s porno, a souvenir shop, and New York's old Russian Tea Room, the all-red boîte has hundreds of plastic Lenins dangling from the ceiling, waitresses dressed in real Stalinist worker's uniforms—only much smaller—and former Soviet leaders giving speeches on TV screens in between scenes of soft porn. The comedic menu is divided into "Soviet Food" and "Anti-Soviet Food"—both of which are better than you fear. It's very popular, especially on the Russian song nights.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.