I'm from Russia, so I was hoping to have some nice Russian food in Harbin while I was visiting there last week. We found a place named "Tatos" in 127 Zhongyang Dajie. At first it seemed inviting as the decoration was nice, but when the food came, I was shocked. It's not Russian food at all, just some terrible chinese interpretation! The fish soup was made of milk with a few little pieces of fish floating in it (yuk!), the squid salad was tough, and the baked chicken leg was greasy and uneatable. It was one of the worst lunches I've ever had! So I tried to talk to the manager, an elderly grumpy-looking Chinese man. I explained to him that what we had wasn't Russian food, that we were completely unsatisfied, but all he could do is give us a 10% discount! It would never had happened in Shanghai where I live now as our restaurants' managers realize that reputation is priceless. So I promised the stubborn, rude man that I would write a review on his place and am doing it now. I highly DO NOT recommend this place to anyone who wants to have some decent Russian food in Harbin! Julia.
Eclectic best describes this place. The walls are covered in pictures and Americana, It's hard to imagine how all this junk ended up in Harbin.
There are pictures on the wall of a local Chinese guy in various military uniforms. He is the owner. I especially like the one with him and a hot Russian girl who is wearing a naval uniform.
Favorite Dish: The coffee is so good when you are freezing from your walk down to the river.
Want to test some russian food in Harbin ? See the numerous tourist shops along Zhongyang pedestrian street bearing, some of theme bearing a "Russian products" sign. Russian products inside : kind of airport duty free stuff, but 10 times the price you would pay in Lenin's country... Russian food at Russia Cafe ? How to express it ?...
The messy room is crowded with chinese tourists. The kind of folks who want to thrill themselves with the ultimate dining experience in Harbin. The food itself looks like those served in russian hotels before the Perestroïka times... Maybe not good enough to fill up the tigers at Harbin zoological park, so they have created this fake russian cafe as an extension of the zoo. The staff also will indulge the customer with post-revolution care and warmness. Dirty green tableclothes (maybe so many customers are vomitting their dinner that they do not hvae time enough to clean it) are the perfect match to stomach pain this Russian Cafe will leave to your memory !
Favorite Dish: Try the special Bortsh : a kind of soup made with the garbage of the week, the unique smell reminds us a mix of putrid onions and durian. For the adventurers, have a bite in the russian sausage ; they get it twice a month from a siberian kolkhoze. What a delight, is'nt it ?
If you have late dinner at Russian Cafe, be sure that your hotel has a proper room service : the best meal you will get would probably be that one !
It looks a bit Japanese from the outside, but it's not. A bit cramped, the interior decor is interesting, but it's the same old Chinese food- way too salty, way too much MSG, way too much grease. I nearly threw up after eating the "spicy stir-fried shrimp" or whatever it was called. About 12 shrimp placed in a circle around a bed of who knows what- deep fried salt/MSG, probably. Anyway, the noodle dish wasn't too bad, but I can't say I recommend the place. They do, however, serve Dim Sum-style things, which might have been much better, so I'll reserve judgement for now.
Many cities in China and around the world are made even better by easy access to all sorts of good, unhealthy street fare. Vendors behind questionably clean carts are just not as common in Harbin, which doesn't help the already dull culinary beat of this northern city. There are a few places, the vendors who gather outside the Carrefour on Heping Lu, and there are a few who sell you a hot sweet potato and popcorn, cotton candy or corn... maybe it's just too cold here, though the fruit and random item vendors still remain.
In any case, Harbin isn't the most inspiring city when it comes to food. And I maintain that in part that is due to a lack of vendors lining the center street, offering something unnecessary-yet-essential to the traveler and local alike.
The restaurant has been chosen one of the top 50 restaurants is HeiLongJiang Province. Here you can taste real north-east China food. And this restaurant is also quite well-kwon in Harbin, you can simply tell the taxi driver the name of it.
Favorite Dish: Of course the pork bone. Using a straw to suck the juice inside the bone. Yammy!! Originally I tought it might be fleshy, but it really is a nice dish.
There is one little incident before I had my supper -- I arrived at the restaurant a quarter earilier than my companies. So I ask what to eat at this restaurant?! The waitress answered immediately," pork bone."
Well, I don't know what's California or U.S.A. about this place. There are lots of these restaurants all around the city. The food is simple, cheap and greasy.
One of the dished we had was a sweet red sauce (in oil) on red meat and fat and a white sauce on chicken and fat (in oil) with onions. Aside from the health issues, it was good.
We also ordered the soup that seemed to be standard there, which was plain with not much to recommend it, and only a little bit of meat with the noodles.
Still, I'd recommend the place just for the experience of eating at a place called, "California Beef Noodle King U.S.A.
Russia Coffee and Food is a cozy Russian tea house and restaurant along the pedestrian street in the city center that is quite good although it seems to be run by local Chinese. They are very hospitable and do a good job cooking, except that I believe the real Russian food would be a lot greasier. I have no complaints!
It's well worth a stop by this place, if not for lunch or dinner, than simply for a bit of tea on a cold day. It's right around the corner from the KFC.
The decor could be called kitschy, depending on where you look. In the front window, there are old and odd items that seem somewhat out of place and bizzare anywhere you find them. The other parts of the restaurant have photographs, old cameras and more interesting items. It's a bit of a trip back in history.
Favorite Dish: The second time we ate here, we had a good curry. The pepper mashed potatos are good on a cold day. The staff is friendly, which always helps make for a good experience, and I highly recommend the place.
Mayonnaise on an Italian Sausage pizza? At Portman's they serve many "western" style dishes. Some have extensive artistic license taken, but they end up being quite good. Maybe it's the Russian influence. We had coffee at Portman's one night, the house blend, served in an unique test-tube-holder-like-device.
They have what seems like a fairly full bar, though I don't know what drinks the bartenders know.
They have an extensive menu, but here are some items with prices if I remember them...
Black caviar, 168 RMB
Red caviar, 48 RMB
Yellow salad... crumbled egg yolk and mayonnaise over cold meat strips.
Russian red soup
Butter (you pay extra for the butter... 3 RMB)
American-style roast pork ribs(?)
Other western-style meats
Overall, it's a nice place with live entertainment on some nights (or at least earlier in the evenings). Just don't try to take photos of the performers.
Favorite Dish: The pizza wasn't a western pizza. I'd say it was more of a white pizza, but it doesn't fit that mold either. They're somewhat unique.
The other dishes, as I said above, seem to take their own interpretation of western dishes. It makes the food interesting. Not bad, just interesting.
The west has seen a decrease in the use of MSG, or at least a euphemization of MSG. Chinese restaurants worth their pound (or two) of salt have signs declaring, "No MSG."
Not so here. So far, many of the meals I've eaten out have been laden with MSG.
Am I saying Chinese food i s bad and not to eat it? Of course not. Simply watch out for MSG, as, from my experience with it so far, based on a western stomach, it is used in such quantities that it can give you the runs, fast. And that's not something you need to deal with traveling.
Simply ask them to leave it out, or avoid saucy foods. The food quite good enough on its own, so it doesn't need MSG!
I don't know how common MSG use is, but from the pallet loads in the local Carrefour...
At least from the name I assume that this is a German or Bavarian-influenced place. It seems like a American west bar in external decor.
An it is western, with oddly cumbersome forks. I'd say the place is like a brewery, but the beer I had was both flat and seemingly unfinished in its fermentation. Maybe it was the time of day, maybe they don't do beer very well, maybe it's the way they do beer there, maybe the gringo asked for beer, it's not ready, but he wants one.
We walked in and a hostess seated us. Then a waitress and a guy who seemed like a manager came up to us and told us that we had to go back out to the entryway to pay... why they didn't have us do that on the way in, I cannot say. Regardless, once we paid and ordered our drinks, we went to the buffet, which seemed to be the vegetable side of the restaurant, with squash soup, green beans and other cooked vegetables, as well as desserts laid out. As we sat and ate, a guy with two sword-like stakes came by and shaved off various meats for us, fried fat, chicken hearts, tongue. Very greasy meats, but quite good.
The waitress began removing serving spoons from the buffet about midway through the meal. I couldn't tell if that meant that they were gearing up for the dinner rush (went went at about 3pm) or what. They didn't remove the food, and the manager had just relit the sterno for us... after we got food... a little too late, but a nice thought... warm up the MSG...
We gathered from various words and pointings that we couldn't revisit the buffet for some reason, aside from the desserts. So we hit up the desserts and left, hoping that the next time we go will provide a bit better experience.
Overall, the food is pretty good, though the beer was flat and not at its best. Two people at the buffet and for the meat, with a beer cost about 42 or 46 yuan.
Ambience and surroundings are wherever you happen to be, whichever street, with whatever going on around you. That's part of the benefit to eating street vendor fare. The other benefit is the game of chance you get to play with whatever it is you are eating.
If you don't play the game, however, you miss out on what is a very common and daily part of life here.
Mornings at our bus stop finds eggs boiling in a stainless steel mixing bowl over coals that take a bit of the chill out of the early day. I'm sure there's other stuff, but those are the most noticeable. The game? How many days have those eggs steamed the morning air? There are no lines, at least.
For the rest of the day, you'll find popcorn, caramel if you want, seeds (sunflower) and nuts (chestnuts, peanuts, and others), lots of fruits (you name it), roasting meats, chicken heads and other cooked goods which are, aside from a great relief from the more unpleasant smells one comes across, just tantilizing. Some sell heavy pastries and occasionally there are noodle stands.
Ice cream and cold drinks are quite common, as is roasted corn.
Across from our old apartment, in the early hours of morning, a line of vendors set up a fruit and vegetable market every day. Steamed bread and dumplings
These places are frequented by locals.
Favorite Dish: The Honduran corn, roasted over coals has found a home here, as well, though without the salt and lime. I'd say that would be my favorite.
What the good people of Harbin must be thinking as we wheel our grocery cart up to the register, I can only guess. Loads of bottled water, chili oil and toilet paper; batteries, bread, Enoki mushrooms, ketchup (katsup) and creamed corn... As if we're not an oddity enough around here.
But my apartment is home to many a good meal. Yes, ketchup and bread go well together, and Harbin is known for its bread.
To welcome us to Harbin, the school for which we work told us that we were going to have a party for about ten people at our place. Five actually showed, but they brought a traditional winter soup that we cooked together, and we made chicken soup, traditional for us. I had plans on making a curry as well, with a salad and dessert and wine and beer. I have lots of wine and beer, and much of the salad went bad. The curry, a Lhaksa (sp) curry, which is pretty good, we put on hold, as they also brought other local things: pickled garlic and cucumber, sausage (also famous here), chicken and a bean curd dish. All very interesting, and, some would say, good, from a certain perspective. The "100-year-old egg" type eggs were quite good, though the texture is certain to throw some people off- gelatinous and somewhat eggy...
Well, the main course was a soup of shaved mutton, wide, thick noodles, shrimp, dumplings and greens, boiled in a broth and served in a bowl partially filled with a mixture of sauces that reminded me of a salt block covered in nut butter. Quite good, especially at first, but almost too salty for a western palatte after a while.
Very nice evening, however, building up further international relationships, which is, afterall, much of what travel is about. Even if the relationship lasts only a day or a few hours, it's still a connection to the locale, which is the reason we travel, and especially the reason we moved to China.
This place is almost perpetually full, we had to make a reservation and down-payment in order to guarantee seats -- and then had to wait for about 10 mins for a table anyway. Step inside the restaurant and you feel like you've teleported out of China. There's a homely feel to the decor and the music is pleasant.
I think there's only 1 cook for the entire cafe, so it takes quite a while for the food to come.
There was also apparently only 1 server for the entire cafe despite the fact that it was quite busy, so service was really difficult to come by! We asked for plain water which never came; the server asked if we wanted our Russian tea served before the meal and we said yes; but the tea never came till we asked repeatedly for it after we'd finished our meal -- no language barriers as an excuse as all of us speak Mandarin at a native level!
OUTSTANDING POINT: I paid a 100 RMB deposit for the table reservation and forgot to collect it after we finished our meal at around 1530 and we just left; only remembered it when we had dinner around 2100 and I hurried back to the restaurant to collect it. Surprisingly they still had it and returned it to me at once. Had it been another place, I would've expected the restaurant staff to have misappropriated it already.
Favorite Dish: One of the best dishes here is said to be the hamburger, but we didn't get to try that as it was sold out. :(
Other good dishes to try are the Russian cabbage rolls, Russian red soup (borscht?), cream of mushroom soup, beef/lamb/prawns cooked in little urns and Russian bread.
Russian tea was simply normal black tea + raspberry jam...? None of us have had Russian tea before, so we were a little surprised.
The restaurant is within Pai Lian Complex and can be access from the main street.
You can choose to have a big pot or individual pots. The food is great and nicely arranged / cut. The decor is nice and service is great. Choice of 2 types of soup for the hot pot.
We asked the waiter for recommendation and the choice was a good. Avoid the toufu (fresh or frozen).
Favorite Dish: The sliced fish for the hot pot is excellent. It is thinly sliced and when you put it into the hot soup base, the fish is instantly cooked and is very fresh.