A bit of trivia which I’d once read popped up in my mind whilst I was having a Russian lunch at Viva Victoria the other day:
“How was Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II & the Romanovs linked to the British royal family? Well, the Queen, Prince Philip, and all of their descendants are related to the Romanovs through Queen Victoria, as she was the grandmother of Tsarina Alexandra, the consort of Tsar Nicholas II.”
Viva Victoria (the bistro) is located on, and named after, Victoria Street in George Town’s old quarter. And the street itself was named after Queen Victoria.
Why Russian food? Well, with international travel out of Penang for holidays virtually impossible, and with inter-state travel between Penang and Kuala Lumpur at a standstill because of the localized lockdown of KL/Klang Valley due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases there, we are beginning to develop some sort of cabin fever here - no foreign (or even inter-state) visitors able to come into Penang, and no locals able to go out. So, when Viva Victoria offered Russian as part of their weekly special, we just dived in.
Amuse-geule: creamy mushroom soup served in little espresso cups. These were pretty good - umami overload, with that delicious depth of mushroom scent & flavor.
Shuba Salad consisting of finely-chopped pickled herring, eggs, beets, carrots, potatoes, and dressing. The traditional layered salad, known as shuba or seledka pod shuboĭ, meant “herring under a fur coat”. The chef was absolutely spot-on with the textures and flavors;
The main course was a choice of Beef or Chicken Stroganoff, served with noodles. We ordered one each, and they turned out to be pretty tasty versions;
- Dessert was Russian Cream (which is quite similar to panna cotta, actually) with passion fruit compote.
Pretty good meal here, though nowhere near, of course, the elaborate deliciousness of the dinner I had at Zima in Soho last Sep '19.
I’d never been to Russia - and the closest I’d been there, culinary-speaking, were Russian meals in Hungary, Slovakia, even former Soviet Socialist Republics like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. One thing this lockdown taught us - don’t put off one’s travel plans for too long, for one may never get to do it, ever. I simply have to do Russia, especially St Petersburg, which had been in my mind all these years, when all this madness is over.
169, Lebuh Victoria (Victoria Street)
10300 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +604-261 0000
Operating hours: 12 noon to 12 midnight daily