THE DISH: Keep Calm and Veg Out
Samadeva // Ulitsa Kazanskaya, 10 // Tel. 953 38 90 // Daily 11 a.m. —11 p.m. // Dinner for two: 1,040 rubles ($33)
Published: May 29, 2013 (Issue # 1761)
Spokoinyi is a Russian adjective that can mean peaceful, calm, quiet, tranquil and just happens to be the perfect adjective to encapsulate vegetarian buffet-style cafe Samadeva.
Located behind the Kazan Cathedral, and owned by the yoga studio of the same name, Samadeva translates to Dance of God. While its set up is similar to the other vegetarian style cafes found around the city, it does differ in its customer service. Unlike those other cafes whose wait staff tend to be ironically hipster-style hippies loaded with attitude and judgment (from past unfortunate personal experiences), at Samadeva the staff couldn’t be more genuine and helpful.
Being connected to a yoga studio, the cafe is decorated as you would expect. Among the hand-painted wooden tables, cane chairs and Aladdin-style lamps, you can also spot the typical vivid Indian-themed ornaments associated with all things yoga and meditation. The cafe space is quite large as well but the pastel-colored walls and soft ethnic background music creates an intimate and peaceful atmosphere — inviting you to relax and savor your food. There is no need to hurry here at all.
Upon entering you are immediately greeted with the buffet. According to the Samadeva website, in order to create truly wholesome food for the soul, all dishes are prepared in silence and with respect and love by the kitchen staff — a claim you believe when you see the dishes on display, serenely waiting to be served.
The offerings change slightly each day but always include a selection of soups, salads, hot dishes and desserts from 30-90 rubles ($1-$2.90). With prices this low and the servings on the smaller side, you can afford to fill your tray and try as much as you want — which was very easy to do.
To begin, out of the three soups on offer, we chose the pumpkin soup (60 rubles, $2) and Indian Dahl (75 rubles, $2.50). Although they could have been warmer, both soups tasted authentic and homemade especially when accompanied by the fresh homemade breads: a dark rye and a flat white bread brushed with olive oil (15 rubles, $.50).
When it came to the salads, we were immediately drawn a bright orange combination of grated carrot, sultanas, sesame and pumpkin seeds all sweetened with a hint of honey (100 rubles, $4) — simple yet delicious.
A few patties were also on offer and we decided to share three: chickpea, cabbage and a mixed vegetable patty (60 rubles each, $2). While vegetarian patties can tend to be dry and bland, here they were moist and flavorsome demonstrating experience and skill in the kitchen. However, the most impressive dishes were the ones that imitated meat dishes with the use of Seitan — a wheat protein which when cooked can create a similar texture. A popular meat substitute in Europe, Seitan is used extensively in Samadeva’s creative hot dish menu. We chose a stew with Seitan and found the texture true to the claims (70 rubles, $2.20). But the biggest surprise was a dish made from a small block of soft cheese wrapped in seaweed, made to imitate fried fish. The taste and texture was simply magic and became an instant favorite (70 rubles, $2.20).
As you head to the cashier, you are able to order some fresh orange juice (120 rubles, $3.80) or some herbal tea from a large range displayed in small hand-painted glass jars (150 rubles, $4.80). If you decide on tea, you also get to pick your teacup — a cute idea that actually enhances the enjoyment of your tea.
Being a buffet style, we bought our desserts straight away. All as bite size portions, we took servings of the classic coconut ice (50 rubles, $1.90) sweetened condensed milk custard with raisins, cashews and dried apricots (60 rubles, $2) and a sweet square slice made up of chickpea paste and brown sugar (30 rubles, $1). The portion size for each was more than enough as the desserts were very sweet but oh so delicious.
With its central location, Samadeva is an easily accessible and a convenient option for a healthier-style meal when eating out, especially those who are lucky enough to work nearby. However, the biggest draw card here is the prices. It’s almost a crime for food this good to be that cheap… but I’m not complaining.