Restoran Matters

As simple in name as it is in spirit, Restoran—guess the translation—is a rare creature in St. Petersburg: a thor­oughly modern restaurant in every way, from its almost Shakerlike simplicity to its hearty but oh-so-refined cooking. One immediately senses a firm design hand at work. Restaurant Restaurant, as it's known, is strikingly bare, with an unpretentious elegance that is in stark contrast to the extravagant establishments more commonly found in the city.

When choosing what to eat and drink, ignore the ultralong menu (a Russian mania). Instead, order from the lavish arrangement of small plates and drink nothing but the selection of ex­­qui­site homemade liquors (there's an eye-popping horseradish vodka and milder infusions concocted from walnut, juniper, licorice, or cranberry). Russians are brilliant when it comes to hors d'oeuvres, offering herring, boiled potatoes, an assortment of pickled vegeta­bles, and pastries stuffed with mushroom or potato. Also, the creamy, hot borscht here is superb, and the pelmeni—with a variety of stuffings—were among the very best we had. From April to June St. Petersburg's beloved koryushka (smelt), a cousin of the salmon, is on the menu and should not be missed. FYI: When you cut into the fried fish, it should smell like fresh cucumbers. Dinner, $125. At 2 Tamozhenny Pereulok; 7-812/327-8979.