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Teplichnye Usloviya//25/3 Nab. Kanala Griboedova//Tel: 571 5659//Open from 11 a.m. until the last customer//Menu in Russian and English//Dinner for two with alcohol 2,710 rubles ($96)
Published: June 1, 2011 (Issue # 1658)
Given that Teplichnye Usloviya is located just off Nevsky Prospekt in the heart of St. Petersburg’s historic center, is open daily until the last customer and features an extensive cocktail menu, one might expect to find a late-night party atmosphere upon entering. It turns out, though, that the restaurant’s name — a Russian phrase denoting conditions of exceptional (perhaps even excessive) comfort and tranquility — is meant to be taken at face value. The dining space attempts to create the feel of a cozy country cottage. The floors are wooden, the windowsills are strewn with baskets and plants, and the general color scheme is white and light green. It feels more suited to a quiet lunch after work than a party with friends.
The restaurant doesn’t quite manage to bring off the homey feel it strives for. Several unattractive touches — ceiling lamps with what appear to be cloth stockings for shades, plastic flowers and butterflies that dangle alongside them — as well as the space’s general brightness give it the feel of a nursery school playroom. The background music is almost all Beatles melodies, and while this is a step up from the gruesome techno so often inflicted on St. Petersburg diners, it does add to the retro atmosphere. Ultimately, the dining room is more tacky than cozy.
However, thanks to its unusually friendly wait staff, one could never say the restaurant isn’t welcoming. And the food, if not quite as inspired as the best St. Petersburg has to offer, is generally excellent and well worth its modest asking price. The menu consists mainly of simple French dishes; the secret to their success lies not in any “innovative” tinkering, but in solid craftsmanship and the use of fresh ingredients.
We began with the cream of pumpkin soup (150 rubles, $5) and the ceviche in a cheese basket (180 rubles, $6). The mild pumpkin flavor of the soup was well complemented by fresh basil, though it could have used a bit more creaminess. The ceviche, one of the more imaginative items on the menu, was perfect in every way: The shrimp, onions and tomatoes merged into a tangy blend while at the same time preserving their distinctive flavors, and the surrounding cheese basket provided a superbly crunchy finish.
The main courses were on a similarly high level. The baked salmon fillet with hollandaise sauce (370 rubles, $13) was rich and flavorful, if a little on the dry side. The duck breast (310 rubles, $11) was cooked to just the right degree — not too tough, not too flabby — and the fat left on the meat added flavor without overwhelming it. What made the dish really pleasurable, though, was the rich cheese sauce served alongside the duck meat. Both of our side dishes — the grilled vegetables (150 rubles, $5) and the vegetable ratatouille (230 rubles, $8) — were superbly seasoned, generously sized and featured gratifyingly fresh veggies.
With the exception of the ceviche, all of these dishes were potentially ordinary staples made excellent by skill and good taste. If anything, the restaurant displayed even more care when it came to dessert, which proved to be the highlight of the meal. The plum crumble (100 rubles, $4) was airy yet moist, sweet but not at all saccharine. The homemade ice cream (170 rubles, $6) — which, our waitress proudly emphasized, the restaurant really does prepare itself — may be the best reason to pay this place a visit. Anyone who has tried homemade ice cream knows that it has far more freshness and flavor than even the best store-bought brands. This particular example, which was graced with fresh raspberries, was no exception. Both desserts were very generously sized given their low prices.
Feeling highly satisfied by our meal, we couldn’t resist sampling the large cocktail menu, and weren’t disappointed. The strawberry margarita (280 rubles, $10) was especially notable for its use of real strawberries — even those who do not normally take to fruit cocktails may be won over by this touch.
Ultimately, Teplichnye Usloviya offers affordable, fresh, carefully prepared food and friendly service at a convenient location, all of which more than compensates for its misconceived decor.
As the city’s ever-burgeoning fine dining scene continues to think up new ways to impress the weary glamor-loving crowd, another growing trend is to attempt to recreate homely restaurants.
he main dining room of Gastronom, which serves European dishes with the occasional Asian touch, is spacious and very homey. The style is reminiscent of a classic French kitchen, with the walls adorned by rows of dusty wine bottles. Salads are sublime and generously sized, and the main courses do not disappoint, either.
1/7 Naberezhnaya Reki Moiki. Tel: 314 3849
Kvartira No. 55
If the name Kvartira (Apartment) No. 55 leads you to expect a converted communal apartment packed with Soviet kitsch, have no fear: European-style understatement is the byword at this modestly upscale wine bar. While the decor feels more austere than elegant, the restaurant does avoid the extravagant bombast that plagues so many eateries in Russia, and the food is generally excellent.
36 1aya Liniya of Vasilyevsky Island. Tel: 327 7444
This restaurant is all white painted furniture, raw linens, gauzy curtains and silk floral arrangements. It feels a bit too much like granny’s house, and of the seafood-heavy Italian and Asian dishes on offer, the starters are far more impressive than the mains.
8 Belinskogo Ulitsa. Tel: 579 8550