I enjoyed my last meal in Saint Petersburg with Olnev at The Russian Vodka Museum. The place is overpriced and a bit of a tourist trap but offers up a unique experience with its complimentary vodka exhibit, live music and vintage interior. The service is absolutely ghastly (the guy looked as though he had just had a root canal and vasectomy) but the menu offers up a unique USSR dining experience.
Over the course of dinner Olenv and I had the opportunity to chat about Russian food culture and the restaurant industry. He noted that service culture while not on par with its European neighbours (as this very restaurant had proven), it is noticably changing for the better. It’s important to remember the service industry, especially hospitality was run for years in a communist state of mind. Monopolies existed and people never had the opportunity to take their money where they wanted. There was no sense of competition or pride in offering the best experience. Over the past few years as more and more Russians travel, they also learn about a new standard of customer service and take these ideas that they encounter and present them to local Russians in the form of new nightclub concepts, bars and restaurants. While the country is technically running under a free market it is no secret that much of the commerce that takes place here is still filled with corruption and monopolization. It is interesting how the creation of a “free market” and ability for locals to travel has slowly educated and trained Russians on how to choose fine wine, cheese and appreciate the pleasures of gastronomy. I can only assume in another ten years the country will warm up to the notion of smiling as locals start to demand good service. If not they will gladly take their money elsewhere, down the street, to a McDonalds perhaps. As you know at McD’s smiles are free.
duchess pear soviet union cola and “grass from siberia”
russian cucumber salad with sour cream and dill
herring with potato and beetroot salad
minced meat cutlet with mashed potatoes