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In what must be a first for the Bay Area, Baltica offers a full Russian/Eastern European menu alongside a Filipino menu. The owners are from St. Petersburg and they kept on the chef from the Filipino restaurant that used to be in this location. They all very friendly.
On my first visit, I started with the vareniki, which were quite good. The crescent shaped dumplings were handmade and had the finger indentations along the rim to prove it. The skins were rolled evenly and thin, but not translucent, and some vareniki had more bite along the edges than others. The filling is more sturdy than creamy--- it uses a dry-curd farmers cheese, housemade. It's a good portion size and all vereniki were fully sealed.
The "samosa," the baked beef piroshki, was a turnover made with a flaky (puff?) pastry. Good beef filling. The side of carrot and cabbage slaw was excellent and fresh.
They lagman were described as an Uzbek soup, and interested me because I am familiar with the Chinese dish of the same name . It had a tomato base, thin noodles, and lots of soft vegetables. The flavor was a dead ringer for minestrone soup, but with a bit of dill--- This was a satisfying dish, but next time I would choose a less familiar soup.
Melanie Wong joined me on my second visit, and we had a chance to try the Filipino and the Eastern European sides of the menu. We started with pelmeni, which where large and tortellini shaped. Well constructed and delicious. The first thing that hit me was a salty popcorn butter-like flavor that they achieve by tossing the pelmeni in butter and sour cream, just enough to prevent them from sticking to each other. It was a nice complement to the beef and lamb filling.
The Uzbek pan-fried beef belayshi were sold out on my first visit. The are a puffy bread filled with ground beef. The raised dough reminded me of a piroshki or doughnut fried in clean oil. The fillings are similar, but I preferred these to the piroshki I had on my first visit.
The adobang pusit are baby squid served in a thick and salty stewing liquid (w/ ink). I thought I might be icked out by the squid innards, but the squid was so tender that I wound up appreciating their firmed up gelatinized texture. Enjoyable and hearty.
33 W. 25th Ave,
San Mateo, CA 94403