Spring in St.Pete is slow to settle in: be ready for snow and cold rains. The best way to handle them is a company of friends, hot and spicy food and exotic atmosphere. Find this all in the best St.Pete Asian and oriental restaurants.
Legend has it, this is a semi secret place hidden in the enormous Biblioteka restaurant. The name (apteka is Russian for drugstore) echoes the interiors: window-shops and shelves are packed with pots, jars and glasses reminding of alchemists in search of the philosopher's stone. That's why the place is dim and waiters speak in muffled and mysterious voices.
However the menu is typical Indian: chole masala, tandoori chicken, pitta bread and lassi. Fans say the food is really spicy so think twice before testing your taste buds. And check their bar where all cocktails have funny names like Phobia, Mandragora and Houdini and have homemade liquor added. After one shot, you’ll easily get everything in the book about the Minor Arcana in Tarot.
They have two St.Pete locations but to feel the real Korean vibe go to the Ligovsky Avenue one. Though Gorokhovaya Street has a more decent venue, only here you will watch how Koreans really relax: like a Korean guy singing Chinese karaoke for about half an hour while his giggling girlfriends cheer him. Such shows go best with local draught beer and tea and super spicy soups (one eats and cries) served in enormous bowls: one can hardly be able to eat more afterwards.
Local specialties include pulgoki: tender slices of meat are marinated in a sauce and cooked over a hot charcoal grill at table. Take it if you came with friends: it's fun, it's a lot and keeps everyone busy.
What's good about any ethnic cuisine, you always more or less know what to expect. Indian means spicy, exotic and light and Oh! Mumbai meets the expectations: the chef has moved from India, the interiors are decorated with palm trees and oriental chandeliers and walls covered in Hindi writings. Their palak paneer is really burning spicy so you’d want some bitter Indian beer at once, while their curry should be better shared. The place is actually for big companies: wooden tables are moved together and you order half the menu without looking to try everything. Don't hesitate to be noisy, drop your forks or make selfies with a white-bearded sage in the background – you will for sure get a mango lassi on the house.
Sometimes it seems that some restaurant owners don't want people to find their venues. Like, to get to Mashita you need to find the right turn from Bolshoi Avenue of the Petrogradskaya Storona (under the sign Rozoviy Krolik), then take your right and trust your intuition. Determined but soaking wet (oh, St.Pete rains) traveler will be rewarded with a generous bowl of hot ramen with veggies, chicken or pork. It is the place's specialty though it also offers salads and soups. But beware: you could hardly eat these thick noodles in silence. If you are still hungry take a couple of onigiri with salmon or pickled plum. A good hearty lunch will cost you 500 roubles, while a traditional Buddhist cat will wave you goodbye. Just be sure to take cash, their card acceptance policy is really sporadic.
Fans of spicy Asian food keep complaining that it's hard to find in St.Pete: places are scarce, expensive or have weird location and early-2000s interiors. Babjib's owners tried not to make these mistakes and opened the place in Kuybisheva Street making prices more or less affordable. The food is not authentic spicy but still quite hot. And as a bonus they have a shop with Korean treats: moti moti dessert, canned lychee and sesame seed oil. However, after dinner your coat will be smelling of kimchi and fried pork for another week.
This Chinese chain has two Nevsky Prospekt locations and is a typical Pan-Asian venue that serves standard well-known food, has menu in Russian and is affordable for a good dinner for a big company. Though it's not authentic, the interior is nice, the staff is friendly and the atmosphere feels like oriental. Pop in for a Chinese draught beer (great on a hot day) and an enormous serving of peanuts roasted in some unknown herbs – 180 roubles for a plate – and you can sit for hours talking and ordering more beer. Another bonus is the working hours: they are 24/7 and offer alcohol deal for partygoers.
Wong Kar Wine
The place is hard to find so follow our tips: right across the bridge, under the arch, the door is in the wall or you will be lost forever around Fontanka River searching for this tiny cozy place. The owners made it Asian plus wine. The menu is original and wine selection is good (prices start from 190 roubles per glass and you can find a bottle for 1,100) The food is really good: take chicken chips if you plan a long talk, tom yum if you need to warm up, a passion fruit dessert with chocolate balls for a date. The place is a real dating mecca: 80% of visitors are couples. And every St.Pete hipster has a selfie in their vanity light mirror.
This Chinese cafeteria is for the brave only: located in a residential building it's hiding not from customers but immigration officers – the place survived several inspections and the stuff is cautious. By the way, be ready that only one person speaks Russian and he'll guide you through a troublesome process of choosing your lunch. They also have a store where you can buy brightly packed candy (later they will appear jerked beef), noodles and green ice tea. The food is all homemade and for those who are in: a huge bowl of homemade noodles and vegetables will cost 100 roubles, a tofu meal is only 50 and meat pies – 20. The food is served on plastic plates while the interiors are a typical China Town so beware and don't take pampered friends here – bring those brave guys who love experiments and have no gastritis.