Thursday, 14 March 2013

Novosibirsk is getting vegetarian-friendly!

Though I cannot call myself a true, absolute vegetarian (I sometimes eat seafood and I still eat eggs and add them to cakes and cookies I bake), I have been trying to follow the lactovegetarian lifestyle for slightly more than a year now and I thought I can try and write a post for those who is a vegetarian, a vegan, even a raw-food eater, and likes travelling around Russia and happens to come to Novosibirsk or visits my home city on business. In no case is this post meant to provoke any kind of argument, because I know that the topic is disputable. My goal is to give a couple of hints to vegetarians and those who are curious about that, who plan to visit Novosibirsk.


Before I started to follow the vegetarian lifestyle I didn’t think much about it and could go and eat out in nearly all cafes, restaurants, bars and canteens. Now I have to make more efforts, but I’ve found out that, despite Russia is a country that traditionally eats much meat, Novosibirsk is getting really vegetarian-friendly.
The easiest time for vegetarians and vegans in Russia is, of course, the Lent, which starts right after Carnival (Maslenitsa). By the way, it’s the coming Sunday (March, 17)!  On Monday after Maslenitsa all cafes and restaurants start offering the lent-diet card (ask for Постное меню – Postnoye Menu). The Lent finishes on the Easter day, and after that many places start offering spring or summer menu, which can contain various vegetarian and vegan dishes. But in general the most dishes offered in most cafes are with meat (veal, pork, chicken) and fish. If you want something vegetarian you’d better look at the page Гарниры (side dishes, trimmings). There you can find rice, potatoes and vegetables, grilled, boiled or fried. Salads and soups can be tricky, as many salads contain meat or chicken, and so-called ‘herring under the fur coat’ (Сельдь под шубой), which is a traditional Russian salad, contains herring, as is clear from the name. Soups are traditionally cooked with meat or chicken broth. The exception can be trendy cheese soup, but it can be with chicken broth or with chicken pieces, too. Soup in Russia is a main dish, that’s why. Traditional summer soup okroshka (Окрошка) with kvas is a good variant, but traditionally it contains sausage or boiled meat and often boiled eggs, but you can try asking for it without these ingredients. Nearly all desserts are good for vegetarians, with the exception of jellied fruit, as it is cooked with gelatin. A few desserts are suitable for vegans and raw-food eaters, as most of them contain cream in some form.
In the beginning of the post I said that Novosibirsk is getting vegetarian-friendly, and it is really so! Recently I’ve started to find a page with ‘Vegetarian Menu’ in the cards of a lot of places, even in pubs. What is very good is that this menu is not just a salad and a lean soup, but a really good choice of things, including a couple of salads, one or two soups and a number of warm dishes, like pasta with vegetables, grilled vegetables and\or veggie-pizza.

And now it’s time to give some certain recommendations as to eating out. My favorite and a doubtless leader is, of course, café OM – the first and still only vegetarian café in Novosibirsk. I wrote a comprehensive post about it in my second blog, www.AskNovosibirsk.com here: http://asknovosibirsk.com/answer/vegetarian-cafe-om-the-first-and-the-only-of-this-kind-in-novosibirsk/
Since then the café changed its owner, the prices are now pretty high, but the portions are really big (a big plate of baked potatoes in cream sauce is 250 rubles), now it is possible to have a glass of wine or beer and smoke shisha, but the rest is the same (interior, performances in the evening, smell of oriental fragrances). It is situated in the same place and is open during the same hours. There is still not much for raw-food eaters, but a couple of salads and some desserts can satisfy them.
There is another cafe called Little India (http://www.delhitimes.ru/ ) owned by the same person as cafe Om. It is very similar in style to Om, but is not purely vegetarian, though th vegetarian card is very good. The cafe is small,very cozy, but is not in the city center and not very easy to find. The prices are high, but the size of dishes is impressive! The cafe is located Derzhavina Street 73, the closest metro station is Marshalla Pokryshkina. 
One more place I wrote about is Café Cardamom, which is not purely vegetarian, but offers some great dishes: http://asknovosibirsk.com/answer/cafe-cardamom-an-exotic-place-in-the-downtown-of-novosibirsk/
It may sound strange, but the chain called Shashlykoff, which offers all kinds of shashlyk, is vegetarian-friendly, too. It offers the best vegetarian shashlyk, consisting of grilled vegetables, I’ve ever tasted. The disadvantage of the place is that it allowed to smoke and a lot of TV-sets hanging around the place and demonstrating loud and sometimes indecent music videos.
All sushi-bars (Суши Терра, Рыба-Рис, Планета Суши) are quite friendly for vegetarians, with good choice of rolls and soups, but rolls can be a disappointment for vegans, as they are often with cream cheese.
The chain Pechki-Lavochki (Печки-Лавочки) offers typically Russian food, but there you can taste delicious friend potatoes with mushrooms.
I like the chain Travelers’ Coffee for very good coffee and for nice but limited choice of vegetarian warm dishes and desserts. The place does not offer any alcohol.
A good choice of pasta and pizza, including vegetarian variants, are found in Perchini, an Italian restaurant with moderate prices.
And for those wishing not to just eat something vegetarian, but enjoy a day or more in healthy atmosphere, including vegetarian food, complete ban on alcohol and smoking, in a wonderful forest on the shore of the gulf of the Berd river, there is a camp called Extreme Fitness. Read a post about it in my second blog: http://asknovosibirsk.com/answer/extreme-fitness-a-recreation-center-or-resort-or-camp-near-novosibirsk/
If you stay in Novosibirsk within a longer period, rent a flat and cook your own food, you can find all you need in all supermarkets, and you can find specialties like Indian and other spices, soya meat, soya milk, various cereals and much more, there is a shop I’m in love with. This shop is interesting not only for vegetarians, but for everyone who likes cooking non-standard, non-typical national and international dishes. The shop is called Jagannath (http://www.nsk.jagannath.ru/ ), it is one of the chain of shops, with the main one in Moscow. The shop is located Gogolya Street 16, near Sibirskaya Metro Station.
I hope this post helps you a little, as now I know myself that it’s not always easy to follow some special life style. I wish you health and nice stay in the Siberian capital!

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