Traditional Russian food
Long-running Irina’s, once popular with the town’s diplomatic crowd, is a Phnom Penh institution. Expect delicious Russian food — and vodka — and while Irina’s has moved locations a few times over the past 16 years or so, it’s now either located in the former USSR consulate general’s, or they have simply managed to procure the old plaque. The boxy room setting with traditional decorations might feel a little sterile, but the food is as comfort-giving and generous as ever.
The menu traverses the greatest hits of Russian food, but we always come for the selyodka, a plate of sliced and salted raw mackerel with boiled potatoes and pickles, plus a shot of chilled vodka on the side ($4). Not keen on the fish? A 50 mL vodka shot is $2, or go straight for 100 ml for $3, served in cut-glass crystal (or near enough). Got a crowd or a drinking problem? A litre of vodka is a clean $20. A glass of wine is $3, a carafe $9 or beers are around the $1.50/$2.90 mark.
The menu sounds kind of stodgy — meat and potatoes feature heavily — but if you order the right combination and knock it back with some vodka it all works.
They were out of pierogi the last time we stopped by, but we had a plate of pelmeni, meat-stuffed, boiled ravioli served with sour cream ($4) plus a grated beetroot and walnut salad ($4.10). Other dishes include borscht ($4.50), okroshka, which is a cold buttermilk soup with fresh veggies… and meat ($4.50), goulash ($7.90), chicken a la Kiev ($6.90), golubtsy, which is a mix of rice and meat wrapped in cabbage and stewed in tomato broth or mushroom cream sauce ($4.90) and blinies with smoked salmon ($5.90).
Irina’s special is simply meat, potatoes and vegetables topped with cheese and “baked to perfection” ($9.50) — and if you’re looking for comfort, surely that’s better than the bottom of a bottle, right? Or try the “healthy casserole” — we guess she’s talking relatively — of chicken, spinach, feta and cheddar ($6.30).
If you’re self-catering, you can also get the pelmeni frozen in bulk as well as cottage cheese and sour cream to takeaway. You’ll have to check on the vodka.
Service is swift and friendly but the space is small. If you’re a group larger than four it’s probably wise to make a reservation. This is a good spot to keep in mind if you’re heading to the bars of Bassac Lane. Because nothing lines the tummy better than some starch, right?
Samantha Brown is a reformed news reporter. She now edits most of the stuff you read on Travelfish.org, except for when you find a typo, and then that's something she wasn't allowed to look at.
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