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Saying mango in Russian

By Mike Peters | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-04 07:57

Saying mango in Russian

Fish lovers can't miss with the perfectly grilled trout. [Photo by Mike Peters / China Daily]

We know it as an exotic tropical food that is dripping with sweetness, so why associate a mango with Russian food? Mike Peters finds out.

It's not the first word you think of when Russian food is being discussed. A mango in Russia? We were scratching our heads at the very idea, but when two expatriates from Moscow insisted it was the place to get the authentic grub, we were on our way.

Mango the "restoclub" is in the heart of the Cyrillic-alphabet district in Beijing's Ritan Park. It's right across the street from Chocolate, the iconic nightclub famous for its sophisticated bar, its glitzy stage shows with ooh-la-la pole dancers, and long-legged blondes who roam the dance floor and may or may not just wanna have fun.

Mango is sometimes described as "like Chocolate but smaller," but that hardly does it justice. While Mango, too, has a lively floorshow with spangled Russian and Cuban dancers in two nightly performances at 8:30 pm and midnight, it lacks the salacious sense cultivated by Chocolate that one of the lovelies may land in your lap.

Most of the crowd seems to be here to eat as well as to party.

We started with the namesake mango salad, with slabs of the sweet fruit topping a romaine salad festooned with Parmesan cheese, and a robust bowl of borscht, the hot beet soup beloved in Mother Russia. This version is studded with tender bits of beef and sour cream, perhaps the best we've had in Beijing.

Also impressive: Kiev-style chicken, a breaded chicken cutlet that's been pounded and rolled in cold garlic butter and herbs, then breaded and either baked or fried. This dish often gets dried out in other Russian eateries - odd, since it's a classic barometer used to judge the authenticity of the kitchen.

But when we cut into this cutlet, we got a kiss of savory steam as we watched butter ooze out onto the plate - hints that the meat inside was nice and juicy. We got a buttery scoop of mashed potato on the side as well as a small salad of lettuce, onion and julienned carrots.

Saying mango in Russian

Beef stroganoff was another winner. The slow-cooked strips of beef were tender, the mushrooms adding a fugue of earthiness, the whole stew redolent with paprika but not overwhelmed. This was serious comfort food for the last chilly days in Beijing.

Baked trout was a nice surprise, since I tend to find this dish overly mayonnaised. This tasty slab of fish was daubed with just enough mayo to give it tang but not squelchiness, and then smothered in cheese. This construction was popped into the oven until the flavors melded and the crust had nicely browned. Yum!

The food to that point was so hearty we had to pass on the dessert offerings, though our server tsk-tsked as we skipped the tiramisu. Maybe next time.

We did enjoy a couple of glasses of Baltika, which comes in varieties that are numbered, not named. Higher numbers are increasingly robust (read alcoholic). The No 3 is the Baltika "classic", a 4.8 percent alcohol brew with a clear gold color, a light malt flavor, slight hop bitterness, medium body and clean, creamy "mouthfeel". All that's according to You can just call it refreshing and delicious. Also available is No 7 if you want a bigger kick in the pants.

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Saying mango in Russian

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