THE DISH: Buffalo Steak House
Buffalo Steak House//12 Ulitsa Rubinshteina//Tel. 315 5740//Open noon to midnight//Menu in Russian and English//Dinner for two 3,340 rubles ($103)
Published: September 5, 2012 (Issue # 1725)
More than steaks
Cozy and mismatched are two words that delicately sum up the newest steakhouse on St. Petersburg’s reigning restaurant street. From its appearance, Buffalo Steak House looks more like a funky organic hideaway with its low, arched brick ceilings, large wooden surfaces and random eclectic décor than a typical city steakhouse.
It is these inconsistencies, however, that make the venue unique and endearing (the incredibly helpful and welcoming service adds to this), creating a warm environment in which patrons are happy to sit, chat and eat, forgetting about time, despite a large Roman numeral clock hanging on the wall. Oddly enough for a Saturday night, on our visit, there was only one other party in the quaint two-room restaurant, but friends of the bartender and waitresses had popped in to sit at the bar and keep them company during the slow evening shift.
The restaurant’s one-page food menu was also unexpected, with a solid appetizer selection of various salads, cheese and meat plates and soups including some Russian classics such as shchi and okroshka (both 280 rubles, $8.70). Surprisingly, the menu boasts only a handful of steak dishes, starting at 540 rubles ($16.70) for the steak burger and climbing up to 1,380 rubles ($42.75) for the 400-gram rib eye steak. For those not big on red meat, it includes a couple of fish options and chicken as well.
The generous portion of chicken salad with green apple, walnuts and mushrooms in mayonnaise for 310 rubles ($9.60) was served on a bed of fresh spinach and was satisfyingly filling, but disappointingly flavorless, despite the wide array of ingredients. The fresh and sun-dried tomato salad with asparagus for 360 rubles ($11.15) was much more of a palate pleaser with basil, tart tomatoes and a salty drizzle of pesto sauce giving the dish a winning kick.
The comfortable and mismatched seating (plush purple benches, tweed armchairs, leather seats and wooden chairs) helped make the lengthy wait between the starters and entrees more tolerable, but the smoky aroma of grilling meat (actually prepared in a charcoal broiler) was a teaser.
The filet mignon (820 rubles, $25.40), cooked medium as asked, was completely unseasoned, showcasing the good cut of meat and giving each individual the chance to season the meal to their taste with the option of slathering it in the tomato garlic sauce served on the side. The only detail out of place was the dill garnish — the chef obviously could not resist adding a Russian touch to the steak.
Another Russian beef classic, Beef Stroganoff (650 rubles, $20.15) proved filling and true to the traditional recipe. The amount of beef was thankfully not overshadowed by the sauce, and had the perfect amount of mushrooms and onion to give the simple classic a hearty flavor. The oven-roasted potatoes ordered on the side (180 rubles, $5.60) were delicately seasoned, however some of the wedges were slightly underdone and overly firm. They nevertheless served as a nice sponge to sop up some of the sauce from the Stroganoff.
Be forewarned that if looking forward to enjoying a nice steak dinner with a bottle of red, you’ll have to bring your own wine. Although bouquets of flowers decorating the tabletops and windowsills on the venue marked the nine-month anniversary of Buffalo Steak House’s opening, the restaurant has not yet been able to celebrate obtaining a liquor license. Diners are asked to bring a receipt for any bottle of alcohol they bring with them and there is a 290-ruble ($9) cork charge for wine and a 490-ruble ($15.20) charge for anything with a higher alcohol content.
The beer list includes foreign beers only with an average price of 280 rubles ($8.70) per pint. To make up for the limited alcohol selection, the restaurant offers a choice of herbal and berry teas along with fresh juices and smoothies — yet another quality that is more reminiscent of an earthy, hipster hangout than a place frequented by wealthy businessmen to eat expensive meat, shoot vodka and feel rich.
Like some other local restaurants, Buffalo Steak House offers a 20-percent discount on the food menu weekdays from noon to 4 p.m. (excluding holidays).