Following in the wake of Moscow, St. Petersburg's selection of sushi bars and restaurants continues to expand at a dramatic pace. Only the meteoric rise in the number of beauty salons and mobile-phone dealerships can compete with the steep hike in the number of sushi eateries opening up, and on a recent trip out to the dacha I discovered that fast-food Sushi bars at gas stations on the way out of town have now arrived. Quite why sushi should be so popular in St. Petersburg at the moment remains something of a mystery, but it's a trend that's to be welcomed. And for those not venturing out of town, one of the latest additions to the ranks of the city's finest sushi bars, Kaminari, a short walk from St. Isaac's Square, is well worth a visit.
Granted, from the outside, Kaminari does look a little garish, with the slightly tacky red lettering almost randomly glued on to the bar's windows, but appearances are all too deceptive in this case. Once inside, you find yourself in a bright, informal setting, with a wealth of natural light and a complete absence of the pretension and formality that you find in many of the city's other Sushi bars. It was almost a relief to hear a Russian pop radio station playing quietly in the background, rather than a standard-issue CD of ethnic ambient sounds. The service proved to be similarly informal - polite, friendly and informative, rather than the frosty and misplaced cool of the sushi bars at the higher end of the price range.
We kicked off with a stylishly served selection of two rolls and eight sushi, including salmon, shrimp, scallop, tuna, water eel and hoki clam for 575 rubles ($18.95). The standard of sushi in St. Petersburg doesn't vary greatly, and Kaminari proved to be at least on an equal footing with the frontrunners. I shared the selection with my dining partner, a self-acclaimed sushi expert and Japanese speaker, who gave the dish a thumbs up. We also tried the miso soup for 40 rubles ($1.30), which I found deliciously tasty, but my companion deemed a little too crude. The Kirin beer for 120 rubles ($3.95) provided no cause for dispute, however.
It would be unfair to say that it was downhill from here on, as far as the food was concerned, but after the exotic taste sensations that sushi provides on these shores, the dishes that we went on to order proved disappointingly familiar. I took the salmon teriyaki at 210 rubles ($6.90) - despite being extremely fresh, beautifully prepared and served with an excellent selection of vegetables, there was little to distinguish it from meals served at a number of Russian restaurants in the city.
My dining companion's selection - ebi-gedza, fried Japanese dumplings packed with crabmeat - created much the same impression. While far from being a straight Russian-style pelmeni dumpling, it could hardly be described as something out of the ordinary.
For dessert, I tried the fried bananas for 110 rubles ($3.60), which were light, delicately crispy and almost entirely oil free. My partner opted for the "lichee pulp" for 180 rubles ($5.90), which was also deemed delicious.
Kaminari, then, has much to recommend it, the relaxed atmosphere and cheerful service ranking particularly highly, and distinguishing it from the ever-growing sushi crowd.
News source: sptimesrussia.com
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