Guam Diner Bytes: Siberia Restaurant
When I heard there was a Russian restaurant in Saipan, I said to myself that it was about time and a great idea! Afterall, there have been thousands of Russian visitors to Saipan over the past decade, as well as a few who have made Saipan their choice of residence. It would only make sense that they have a place where they could get food from the homeland, or comfort food! I’m no expert on Russian cuisine and based on what I saw on their rather extensive and dramatically huge leather-bound menu, they seemed to cover all the bases (maybe the entire country)! The big red sign outside claims it has the “best Russian food”! I don’t think they are getting anybody disputing this assertion.
Opened for nearly two months, the owners picked a prime location in a modern, well-designed building. There is an escalator and an elevator to Siberia from the street below. The escalator was under repair. There is a large seating area outside the main entrance. This area is covered and would be ideal for outdoor dining. The inside of the restaurant is quite spacious and must have taken a forest to furnish as there is a profusion of wood used - the walls and ceiling are built using a beautiful polished wood. It’s like a giant log cabin. Siberia is truly atmospheric with ornate chandeliers and decorative lamps hanging from the ceiling. There are emerald green plush booths and sofas, paintings, objects d’art, curios, and the pelts and skins of hunted game (the most visible is a wolf that’s splayed out and nailed to the wall with his red mouth gaping in a gruesome stretched grin). Adjacent to Siberia is its sister club called Coffee & Jazz, a cool place where you can get espresso beverages as well as your favorite cocktail or spirit. It’s an impressive, classy club created by people who want you to be entertained in style.
I joined my co-workers for this dining adventure and they had already ordered some items since I had arrived late. Having to observe my reduced carb diet, I had to avoid the temptation of the popular Russian breads (Pirozhki-hot from the oven and stuffed with mashed potatoes). They had started out with a Set Menu C($32) which had Olivie (Russian style potato salad), Solyanka Soup (with smoked meats, olives, lemon), and Beef Stroganoff. They also ordered a Vareniki with Salmon ($19), featuring house made ravioli, served with red caviar. These were served in a covered. hot pot. They also ordered the Meat Pelmeni in Pot (Russian Meat Dumpling) for$16, which were filled with pork, and covered with a chive-filled sour cream.
The Beef Tongue ($9.00) was the cold appetizer I could eat. It came with horseradish and mustard as condiments and some dill pickle slices. This was a good start for me (along with my Cabernet, served chilled). I also ordered the Traditional Russian Borsch (with Beets, cabbage, and house vegetables, topped with sour cream) for $8.00. I really enjoyed the richly flavored vegetable broth.
The T-Bone Steak ($39) I had ordered came and I sliced some for sharing. It was seasoned with basic salt and pepper. A ramekin on the plate had some kind of steak sauce that really enhanced what was already a decent steak.
I had ordered the Golubtsy (Cabbage Roll Stuffed w/Meat) - $19 for us to sample. This turned out quite well too. I have to mention that the foods were all cooked fine, however, some of the flavors and tastes were generally bland (the dumplings and the cabbage rolls. That’s because we are used to highly seasoned, highly-spiced food in our diets.
The Beef Stroganoff with Mashed Potato had tender Sliced Beef Tenderloin with Mushrooms in a creamy Sauce for $19.00. This was a familiar food to my palate and I really enjoyed it. Of course, I couldn’t eat the mashed potatoes (I did take a small bite to taste them. )
Our server brought a 3-well platter with what appeared to be mini-pretzels , melba toast, and some kind of brown sugar cubes and said this was dessert. These were all different tasting than what was expected. I could only nibble, and realized these items were a matter of personal preference.
What I did order for dessert was the Blini (pancakes, $19) platter (Serves 3) Blintzes served with jam, sour cream, honey, maple syrup. The menu mentioned the maple syrup, however, we only had the cherry jam, sour cream and honey. These were worth the extra calories because they were also familiar (pancake crepes). Everyone on the team liked them, though they were all stuffed (the breads they ate and the mashed potatoes took their toll!
All said, Siberia Restaurant is certainly worth trying out, and probably best if you go with a small group of friends who like to eat new foods. The food is certainly filling (it’s heavy) and it’s hearty, and yes, there are items on the menu that are a bit pricey. Taste is not their strong suit, however, the novelty of this unique destination serving the only Russian food should at least get you in the door.
Ken Stewart ”The Guam Food Guy”