That's a full spread; also note the freshly squeezed grapefruit juice to the right

International Cuisine in Vladivostok

Published: March 22, 2015

Vladivostok is a large, international metropolis. On the border with or very near several Asian states: Japan, North and South Korea, and China, Asian influences in Vladivostok’s restaurant scene is very strong. You’ll also find Indian (which is also investing in the Far East) as well as cuisines that from the Caucauses, which have been popular at least since Soviet times, when they were part of the USSR. Below are some examples places to try international dishes on a student budget! Thanks to all the SRAS students who have contributed to this list!

Korea House

ул. Семёновская, д.76

One of the greatest benefits of studying abroad is inarguably the direct insight into a foreign culture that, with but a little analysis, widens and enlivens our own outward perceptions of the world and its immeasurably varying inhabitants. However, this was more or less my expectation when making my decision to get out of the country for a bit. What has been a more unexpected, and perhaps all the more pleasant for that reason, learning experience is the insight into the cultures that other likeminded ex-pats additionally bring to the table.

While these culture exchanges take place, and are to varying degrees fostered within the classroom, as the universal rule of thumb states, the truly interesting things happen beyond the borders of the official sphere! For this reason, getting out of the classroom every so often with fellow foreign students is highly conducive to mutual brain-picking. I have found this is most easily done by having a complimentary goal in which all are interested. I am of course talking about food. Thusly was a sort of tradition initiated amongst a small section of our group; one which I feel I am taking no excessive liberties in describing as having developed into an eagerly awaited weekly event for all.

Our most recent outing landed us in an eagerly awaited eatery, having already been denied entrance on previous occasions, as there were no free tables. This was easily understandable upon entry as the single dining room is not meant to serve the masses. One, however, immediately got the feeling that all sacrificed space had been compensated for in quality. The interior was spotless and quaint in its compactness. The tables were meticulously set by a staff that seemed to take particular pride in the perfecting of their tasks. The décor enlivened the atmosphere without bringing it to a level of distraction. Finally, of utmost personal importance, the music consisted of light jazz covers of American ‘70s hits, which, by the way, was not the first time I have met such circumstances in a Korean restaurant here in Vlad. Luckily, the selection is appealing to me. On a side note, the music selection always seems to be where these restaurants claiming foreign extraction throw in the towel. This question of why, however, is one for another time and place. Back to the food.

Apart from the good reputation Korea House holds, one of the things that had been drawing me here was the Lenten menu (постное меню) the website advertised. Indeed, separate from the average Korean establishment, there was a fairly diverse selection of not only meatless, but also fishless entrees. We all made our selections, opted to have our drink orders brought earlier than the food, an option many restaurants do not provide and simply bring everything at once, and sat back as the table was soon carefully arranged with the repertoire of appetizers to which I have now become accustomed. Here the kimchi was a little sweater than elsewhere, while the green beans (стручковая фасоль) had a noticeably fresher crunch to them. Unexpectedly there was also a small serving of meat where generally only vegetables are present. This is likely yet another sign that we found ourselves somewhere of a slightly higher grade than those we tend to frequent.

Somewhat caught up in the excitement of having multiple vegetarian options I ordered a vegetable salad further accompanied by spinach (шпинат) and, one of my favorites, sea cabbage (морская капуста) sides salads. The meaty yin to my vegetable yang came in a full spread of beef ribs in a spicy sauce (ребра говяжьи в остром соусе). However, not all were caught up in extremes as our third diner ordered kimchi with fried pork (жаренная свинина с кимчи).

Again taking the liberty of speaking for our group, I’d say this was a decidedly successful endeavor. Not only was it nice to enjoy a dining experience a notch or two refined compared to our more habitual selections, the increase in quality seemed to be under-compensated by the price increase. While the ribs came in at a steep-ish 880 rubles ($15), the kimchi and pork rang up at 460 rubles ($8). Even my triplet salads only totaled 570 rubles ($9.50). For this reason, I might suggest Korean House for a celebratory occasion that won’t break the bank. And don’t worry, they offer a full assortment of alcoholic beverages. Just be sure to call ahead as, knowing from experience, they tend to fill up quickly – especially on holidays!

– Alex Misbach

T-Studio

Ул. Некрасовская, д. 100 / Takeout

So the very purpose of my reporting to you, the interested, on food locations in Russia’s eastern outpost is to encourage you, when you make the trip, to get out and explore some of the wonderful and not-so-expensive sites that the Vladivostok has to offer. However, if you come here as a student, like many of us, there will be periods when you just want to “stay in,” especially during the monsoon-like rains that water the streets of the city from time to time. You will be excited to know (as I was) that, in service of this goal, there is indeed delivery in Vladivostok! One of the seemingly largest outfits for this is a place called T-Studio.

T-Studio specializes in sushi, but as with many places in Russia for some reason, sushi is an equal partner with pizza on the menu. There is also a full array of hot Asiatic fare, such as udon and soba noodles with various meat/vegetable accompaniments. My girl Megan, a fellow SRAS student, and I decided to go for the pizza and soba noodle options. We then topped our orders off with a beer each for dessert!

After placing our order online, a very nice dispatcher from the restaurant called us to confirm our order, and about 45 minutes later our delivery driver called us to say that he was on campus.

In terms of the food itself, I was a bit disappointed with my lot, as the seafood soba noodles came in a relatively small little container (yes, they do give the weight online, but it’s all metric, and what American can approximate what 250g of noodles will look like?!). Once I started tucking in, however, I realized that the noodles were indeed pretty filling. What was actually lacking, however, was genuine taste. The noodles were quite oily and the seafood within them not exactly seasoned to the right degree, and thus the whole dish ended up having one, monotonous, sesame/peanut oil-type taste. It wasn’t horrible, but it definitely was not a dish to write home about.

I will say, however, in the interest of maintaining T-Studio as a viable option for those who follow after me that the calamari and ham pizza that Meghan ordered was quite good. The texture variation between the chewier calamari and the crisper ham made the tongue happy, and the Italian-style very thin crust paired with the sparing but nicely seasoned sauce really hit the spot. Overall, I will probably be trying this place again, and ordering the pizza instead!

– Jordan Bryant

Ganga

Океанский проспект, 69

Living in Russia, I am frequently asked to explain the reason for my vegetarianism. Despite its almost daily nature, every time the question is put before me, my head practically starts spinning as my heartbeat quickens and the diatribes lying dormant inside of me are prodded awake.  Constrained as much by common courtesy as by my lack of Russian speaking prowess, I usually keep my answers to short anecdotes about valuing animal life and my time spent working on a farm back home in the state of Kentucky. Such reasons for adopting a vegetarian lifestyle are common in my modest experience living in a handful of American cities.

For the limited but perceptibly increasing population of vegetarians in Vladivostok, however, reasons stated, almost without exception in my encounters, revolve around personal health. The slogan scrawled above café Ganga, a vegetarian restaurant in Vladivostok, is “health strength beauty” («здоровье сила красота»), which well embodies the mindset of the local vegetarians.

The name «Ганга», is the genitive declension of the Russian word for the Ganges river (Ганг), giving the meaning “of the Ganges,” the great river of India..The dining room’s only painting is a large depiction of three figures, a goddess, a bull, and a mortal, on the bank of a river. Classical Indian archways reservedly serve as decoration for the remaining three walls. While most of these are simply painted on, one wall does feature two bonafide archways, which work to, if only slightly, open up and soften the otherwise rigid feel of the layout. There is also a collection of placards featuring the visages of a broad swath of famous personages, from Brad Pitt and Natalie Portman to Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton. Each plaque displays a quote from its owner propounding the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle.

The menu is rather complicated – to the extent that I and my my non-vegetarian but happily obliging friend had not yet decided when the first attendant came to take our order. When a new attendant arrived for a second attempt, we were informed that one must order from the daily menu (сегодняшнее меню), which represents only those items on the larger menu currently available. This menu looked to have been drawn up in Microsoft Excel, presenting not the easiest of tasks to piece through. We again requested more to time to assess our options.

On the next attempt, several of our choices were shot down due to Ganga’s having run out (закончились) of some or all of the necessary ingredients. Eventually, however, we placed our order and relaxed in the hope that we would be in the clear until our food arrived. Alas, another item was unexpectedly unavailable, requiring yet another new staff member to approach the table expressing regret and suggesting alternatives.

All of Ganga’s offerings come in the form of inexpensive and modestly apportioned à la carte items. As I am still largely unable to determine what, exactly, is an appropriate amount of food in terms of the gram measurements almost ubiquitously shown on menus, I placed a cautionary petite order. Carrots with eggplant (морковь с баклажанами) and a small cabbage pie (капустный пирожок). My friend ordered the 250g green soup (зелёный суп), primarily composed of spinach, and 250g of potato dumplings (вареники с картошкой). We both topped off our orders with a mango flavored 300g lassi (ласси), a yogurt-based drink not so far removed from a milkshake. The host had also enthusiastically explained their juice (sok; сок) selection, another current Russian health trend, but we didn’t delve into that.

The freshness of the food and its preparation were obvious and certainly helped amend some of the earlier discomforts. While my meal was not the most filling, it set me back a mere four dollars and could have easily been sufficiently substantiated by an additional pair of items. The staff, although always polite and helpful, was a little intrusive and made the rather cramped seating arrangement feel even closer still. Accordingly, I would not advise groups of more than four to seek out this location for a rendezvous, as its capacity would likely prove unbecoming. The atmosphere too was not quite up to snuff, as the simplicity in style leaned more towards bland than elegant. One should also note that, in accordance with Ganga’s focus on physical health, alcohol is not a part of their menu selection.

All in all, there were many stumbles. Even despite the seemingly minutely varying theme of the stereotypical Hare Krishna melody playing all the while, I was not exactly enchanted by the experience. That being said, I will still likely return to Ganga. Why? 1) inexpensive, wholesome food 2) the promotion of a movement I support, whatever the motivation 3) my somewhat negative experience appears to be anomalous in relation to the positive experiences others have relayed to me.

– Alex Misbach

 

The Two Georgians

Ул. Пограничная, д. 12

So with all the culinary writing I’ve been doing about Georgian food of late, I developed a serious hankering for some authentic “southern” cuisine! In light of this, I decided to take in a meal at Два Грузина (Dva Gruzina) – one of most popular Georgian spots in Vladivostok. Now I will confess, I have eaten here many times before, but never with an eye to making the restaurant into a “Cheap Eats” feature. On this trip, however, it dawned on me that I could do just that, as all I wanted on this cold winter’s day was a steaming bowl of харчо (kharcho) and some gooey хачапури (khatchapuri) to soak it up!

Два Грузина, while undoubtedly a bonified “Cheap Eat”, is no cheap establishment. The décor was clearly chosen with care, mimicking a rustic Georgian village/farmhouse setting, with festive mural scenes painted on the walls and various hanging decorations that serve to really convey the bright, welcoming, and professional mood of the place. The restaurant’s location almost directly in the center also makes it a prime place for people-watching, as the number and variety of people that come through the restaurant is staggering! However, even were Два Грузина not in the center, I am sure that it would attract people from far and wide, as the food is simply delicious. It is probably the closest that you are going to get to babushka’s Georgian cooking in the area. The харчо (180 rubles), while not made with the traditional ткали (tkali; a dried puree of cherry plums), and clearly utilizing the more readily-available tomato paste as a substitute, is still more than sufficient in the taste department. Nicely packed with beef and redolent of its constituent walnuts, I could not even wait for the soup to cool off to continue stuffing my face after the initial taste! The хачапури (210 rubles) that I shared with my dining companion, fellow SRAS girl Danielle Covolo, was also scrumptious (I get it every time I’m there). Made with authentic сулугуни (Suluguni; a Georgian cheese), the Imeretian хачапури is pure heaven: runny/gooey on the inside with the salty cheese and light and airy on the outside, courtesy of expertly-made dough.

While the meal might not seem so substantial to the reader, I can tell you that after a heaping bowl of харчо and a half round of хачапури, my stomach was most definitely satisfied. The only downside to this restaurant that I can even put a finger on is the relative absence of servers throughout your meal, but in honest comparison to most other Russian restaurants, such behavior is almost to be expected. Thus, for a mere 5 rubles over the target Cheap Eats price of 280 rubles, you can eat a seriously flavor-packed and beyond appetizing meal at a restaurant in the center. A pleasant surprise, to say the least!

For groups and faculty-led tours, Два Грузина is a wonderful spot, and is, in fact, host to many a tourist gathering. The tables are easily fit together to form long banquet-style affairs, the menu is very conducive to the sharing of dishes, and the atmosphere is sure to liven up the party!

– Jordan Bryant

About the author

Alex Misbach

Alexander Misbach graduated from the University of Virginia in August of 2014 with degrees in Environmental Science and Russian and East European Studies. He is currently spending an academic year in Vladivostok enrolled in SRAS’s Russian as a Second Language program. Upon the year’s completion he would like to study Polish in its native land, and/or travel until the money runs out.

Program attended: Challenge Grants

View all posts by: Alex Misbach

Jordan Bryant

Jordan Bryant is a recent graduate of Harvard University (Go Crimson!), who specialized in both Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Classics. In order to deepen her knowledge of the Russian language and study the culture from a perspective different than the ones she had already experienced in the "two capitals", she has journeyed to Vladivostok, which is on the other side of the country! After she returns from Russia, she hopes to matriculate into law school and work in the field of international corporate law in Eastern Europe.

Program attended: Challenge Grants

View all posts by: Jordan Bryant