How do 4 Russian-cuisine neophytes eat through 19 dishes and 24 drinks at Tokyo’s
most adored (and perhaps only?) Belarusian restaurant? Give them some vodka and a menu.
A dark dark dark black beer (highhhhhly recommended) and a double shot of ice cold Stolichnaya vodka in a frozen shotglass. Flanking an unspectacular thoroughfare near the Russian Embassy, lies a world in which vodka passes as water, and yuppies on Atkin’s diets run for dear life. On a recent outing with my 3 adventurous eating companions, our quest to self-challenge our own gastronomic familiarity was met with equal prowess played by the part of a very adept team of Belarusian chefs and waitresses who slung comments like, “You guys can really drink, huh?” I’ll take that as a compliment at a Belarusian restaurant any day.
Another vodka and black beer round began the journey. We started with the smoked salmon crepes, rolled with capers and decadent cheese sauce, which we knew we’d be seeing again. The potato pancake stuffed with warm baked meat and the stuffed paprika (red and yellow spliced bell pepper) showed us that what’s on the inside really counts. The stuffing trend continued with a few Golubtsys (stuffed cabbage rolls) and what my friend so eloquently describes as “Sumpin’ with sumpin’ inside”. But where he lacked verbosity, he made up for with appetite, challenging the burly white-hatted chefs to a duel of culinary adventure. Another black beer, another double shot of Stolichnaya vodka. And it was then that they pulled out their trump cards. The perfection of the Sour Cream Pork Stew left us begging for seconds; tender soft pork cutlets in tangy sour cream sauce sang a duet with the Beef Stroganoff, the Bolinchky, and as foreshadowed, another 4 orders of the salmon crepes.
While independent since 1990, the former USSR republic has continued to develop and refine its own distinct culinary culture. At one time, Belarusians used to be scornfully called bulbashi, or potato-eaters. Now though, restaurants like Minsk are showing Tokyoites the superlative truth, one dish at a time.
Minsk [Belarusian Home Cooking]
1-4-2 Azabudai Minato-ku, Tokyo