Flora and Fauna
Truffle//82 Bolshoi Prospekt on the Petrograd Side//Tel: 405 9077, 8 (921) 999 0977//Open noon to midnight (kitchen closes at 11 p.m.)//Menu in Russian and English//Dinner for two 3,000 ($108)
Published: July 6, 2011 (Issue # 1664)
Located directly above its own cake shop on a stretch of the Petrograd Side packed with restaurants and cafes, Truffle is a delightful chateau in the heart of St Petersburg.
Designed with French Provence in mind, walking into Truffle is a little like walking into your own home. British visitors may even feel like they are dining in a Laura Ashley furnishings store, of which the restaurant’s clean, light interior and occasional floral decoration are reminiscent. While a chintzy home decor store might not be everyone’s idea of cool, the warm smiles upon arrival and sofas you can sink into are impossible to resist.
The color scheme is nautical with soft, beige tones and light blue hues on the ceiling and napkins. If you ignore the air vents strung from the ceiling, which only slightly mar the classically-French country interior, and the dull-toned music, which is uninspired but on the whole unobtrusive, then you might actually imagine yourself away from the big city, just for an hour or two.
Truffle has something for every member of the family, with a brightly decorated kids’ room right beside the dining area, so children can be seen and heard — but only when necessary. There is also a childminder at weekends.
Alongside the modest, welcoming atmosphere and pleasantly kitsch interior, Truffle boasts a menu prepared by Pavel Bulgakov (formerly of Ginza Project) with dishes ranging from sea bass steak (570 rubles, $20.50) to a rack of New Zealand lamb (890 rubles, $32). For younger taste buds, there is also an array of pizza and pasta dishes ranging from a reasonable 220 to 480 rubles ($8 to $17) in price.
For starters, the goat cheese and beetroot salad (320 rubles, $11.50) and the scallops with mango sauce (590 rubles, $21) were a treat. The goat cheese was smooth and satisfying, and the combination of it with the beetroot, pine nuts and pesto thrown in was worth the 40-minute wait.
The scallops — notoriously difficult to cook — had a subtle taste and supple texture, beautifully contrasted by the crunch of the asparagus and the sweetness of the sauce. Colorful, light and thoroughly enjoyable, the dish was spot on for summer.
For the main course, the duck with bilberry sauce (720 rubles, $26) was divine. With the one obvious omission on the menu being side dishes and not a lot of carbs otherwise, the chef certainly makes up for it with meat — and indeed, what meat! Cooked to perfection and served with cabbage, oranges and bilberry sauce, it was a dreamy dish, and in the end, the lack of carbohydrates did not diminish the dish’s success: Instead, it was refreshing, filling and seriously moreish all at once.
Beef Stroganoff (390 rubles, $14) was homely and substantial: A simple, traditional take on the national favorite with no frills.
Last but certainly not least, in a restaurant that prides itself on its downstairs confectioners, it would be rude not to sample something from the dessert menu, and with prices ranging from 60 to 310 rubles ($2 to $11), it is tempting to try everything. The menu includes classics such as tiramisu (260 rubles, $9) and French pancakes (250 rubles, $9), but Truffle’s piece de resistance is, unsurprisingly, its speciality truffle (120 rubles, $4). This is a must even for those who do not have a taste for chocolate. The chocolate was creamy and not too sweet, but laced with a hint of chilli that set the mouth alight with a myriad of taste sensations.
With a business lunch available from noon to 4 p.m. on weekdays, Truffle is a fantastic place for lunch and also for families — and, of course, for those with a sweet tooth.