Russian food – my mind drew a blank. I realized that I have never had Russian food before. What is a typical dish? Popular dish? Culturally significant dish? I have no idea. This curiosity came to mind when I was searching urbanspoon for restaurants to try in Red Deer. When I clicked on Bistro Siberia, I discovered that Red Deer has an authentic Russian restaurant. So off I went “with an open heart and an empty stomach”.
Bistro Siberia is located on the north side of Red Deer just off of Taylor Drive. It is in a small plaza just before the many rows of houses. If I didn’t purposely drive there, I probably would never have passed by.
First time I attempted to eat here, the restaurant was closed with the windows and door covered completely. I thought the restaurant had actually closed permanently. I ended up calling the restaurant the next day and someone did answer the phone and informed me that they had closed early that night. It took another 2 months before I finally returned (it was a case of out of sight, out of mind).
Although appearing dark from the outside, you can see that once you walk in, it is very bright. It also helped that it was a summer night so the sun was still bright and high in the sky.
We took a while to go over the menu as it was our first time there and we wanted to look at every item before ordering. Once we placed our order, we couldn’t help but notice the many sets of Matryoshka dolls (aka Russian nesting dolls) on the counter and shelves. It was definitely in a Russian restaurant.
I decided to start with the Potato Pancakes with Sour Cream. I like potatoes and I like pancakes. It was a safe move for me.
The dish comes with 3 potato pancakes. Each one was a patty of shredded potato fried golden brown with a delicately moist center. Think McDonald’s hashbrown, but homestyle though a bit greasier. If you look closely, you can see a dusting of salt across the top. These were very tasty and paired with the sour cream just hit the spot. Do not skip the sour cream or you don’t know what you’re missing!
My wife ordered the next dish: Russian Pelmeni which had a choice of filling: ground beef, pork, salmon, or chicken. They were served with sour cream and a choice of mustard or vinegar on the side. Of those choices, we picked ground beef as the filling and mustard as the side.
I was happy to see that these were homemade – even made from scratch perhaps? On first bite, you could definitely taste the ground beef. Some oil was still present as you can see in the photo. I suspect it was to keep them from sticking together.
Sour cream and mustard were served on the side. Between the two, we prefer the sour cream and finished the entire cup. I find the mustard is nice if combined with the sour cream, but for myself, I would not use the mustard alone.
I ordered the Vareniki Perogies. There was a choice of potato with cheddar cheese, potato with mushroom, or just potato. I chose just potato. You also get a choice of bacon, onion, or parmesan cheese as topping. I went with bacon.
You know, I always thought perogies were exclusively a Ukrainian cultural dish. I suppose Ukraine having being a part of USSR would no doubt share common edibles with Russia.
On first taste, they were a little bland, but I have had perogies before so I know that this is typical. I do like the creamy potato center and the skin was pillowy and moist though a little more wet than I would have liked.
I was happy to see real bacon bits topping the perogies, but they did not offer as big a blast in flavor as I would have expected. I wonder if pan-frying them would have released the bacon flavor we all are familiar with. As well, I think it would have given the perogies a nice crispy crunch.
We also got a Cabbage Roll. You get a choice of grounded beef and rice or vegetables and rice. You also get to choose the sauce: tomato, mushroom, or milk sauce. We went with beef and rice with tomato sauce. I do wonder how the milk sauce would taste on the cabbage rolls. Is it sweet? Can a sweet sauce work on a cabbage roll? I should have asked for a sample of milk sauce on the side just to see. Now I can’t stop wondering.
It arrived piping hot and divided into 2. I like how they took the time to drape the sauce over and across the plate. You do eat with your eyes first.
Although the cabbage roll is smaller than the ones that my aunt makes for me, they did not skimp on the beef. The tomato sauce was sweet and tangy and gave the beef, rice, and cabbage skin plenty of flavor.
We picked light dishes so that I would have room for dessert. There is only one dessert on the menu: Sweet Blinis served with Fresh Fruits and Ice Cream. The menu was a bit confusing in conveying your choices so I had to ask the host. He explained that the choices were for the filling. You can choose 2 of the following fillings: strawberry, banana, cream cheese, cottage cheese, nutella, peanut butter, raspberry jam, strawberry jam, honey, sour cream, chocolate, almonds, walnuts, or butterscotch. I went with strawberry and nutella.
It was a BIG plate. My first thought was “hey, I know these. Aren’t these crepes?” Yup, they were. We found the ones served in Bistro Siberia to be a bit thicker than the ones that we normally get at the Red Deer Farmer’s market. Just like at the market, the combination of strawberry and nutella was perfect. You get the sweet chocolate and nutty flavor with the fruity, slightly tart flavor of the strawberries. If you have never tried these together in a crepe, you are missing out.
On the side were fresh slices of banana, kiwi, and more strawberries. The fruits definitely help lighten the heavier crepes. I avoided the whip cream as I am not a fan of whip cream in general.
If you look closely, you can also see small mini domino-size pieces of ice cream sandwiches. I was expecting a scoop of vanilla ice cream so this was a nice surprise. Honestly, if you weren’t full by dessert, you will be when you finished this.
It was nice to have an authentic homestyle Russian meal and to add diversity to the options available in Red Deer. I definitely see these dishes being popular during the cold winter months – and that’s months with an “S”.