Russian food warms hearts

by Reggie Cantù
Stripes Okinawa

If you have a craving for genuine beef Stroganoff or a hearty serving of authentic borscht there is no need to book a trip to Moscow. You can find excellent Russian food in Naha. It’s in a tiny restaurant called Perestroika.

Owner and operator Elena Nikitenko named it after Mikhail Gorbachev’s philosophy that began the dissolution of the old Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. To assure that the cuisine stays true to its roots she employs a chef from her native city of Vladivostok.

“I would like for everybody to try my restaurant’s food because it is like the warmth of being at home,” she says.

Having a former grand chef like Irina Sechova in the kitchen certainly helps. Whipping up a real “jarkoe” that is delicious is one example. Inside the bubbly stew pot pie is a savory blend of meat and vegetables that compels you to sop up the last little bit at the bottom of the bowl.

There are also many recipes unknown to most Americans. For example, how many have tasted “sibirskia pelmeni?” It is a traditional dish of minced meat filling surrounded by thin dumpling dough. “Morskoi zamok” is filleted cod in spinach sauce.

The variety is tempting. The “golybcy,” or Russian-style rolled cabbage, is delicious. The “myaso po-rybatski,” described as flavorful pork served with scallops, onions, tomatoes and cheese is another great dish.

“Vareniki,” called perogie in Canada or pirogi in Chicago, is a dumpling stuffed with mashed potatoes and sour cabbage. Beef Stroganoff is a well-known classic but the real version is made with beef, sour cream and soul. There are also creative salads and out-of-this-world desserts to discover at Perestroika.

On Saturday or Sunday, customers are treated to the passionate dancing of Leila Askerova. She performs traditional folk dances and a temperature-raising gypsy dance with energetic, earthy abandonment.

The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday from 6 p.m. to midnight with last orders taken at 11 p.m. Prices range from 1,700 yen to 3,200 yen for a set; all items are available ala carte as well.

To find this gem, take Highway 58 south from Camp Kinser, past the Kukasai turnoff to the overpass with the sign for Highway 330 and turn left. Go to the end of the block, turn right, heading south.

There will be two small parking lots where you should park as the restaurant has only two spaces. Walk south past the first small street and look for Perestroika in the middle of the next block on the west side of the street.

For more information call (098) 863-2206 or visit

Note: This story was originally published in Stripes Okinawa, March 19, 2010 edition.

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