Russian Alexander Pushkin restaurant gains popularity in China, but not just for food

By Bi Mengying Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/5 18:36:56

The Pushkin Literature Resturant in Beijing Photo: Chen Xi/GT

Food at the Pushkin Literature Resturant in Beijing Photo: Chen Xi/GT

Russian poet Alexander Pushkin is a household name in China. His poem "If You Were Deceived by Life," in particular, has been included in middle school textbooks used in most regions of the country. References to the poem can be also seen in the popular culture of China. For instance, a Chinese TV drama produced in 2013 was named after the poem.

This influence can also be felt in China's food culture. A year ago, a restaurant that takes the beloved Russian poet as its theme opened in Beijing's Sanlitun, a hot spot for clubs and live entertainment. The restaurant has been well received by the public, getting many five-star reviews on local restaurant review site Dazhongdianping.

Coming from Harbin, capital city of Heilongjiang Province, which lies along the border with Russia, I've dined at many Russian restaurants. Yet, I put the Pushkin Literature restaurant at the top of my list of great restaurants, not just because the food was great, but also based on my entire dining experience.

Elements of the poet's life were so delicately incorporated into the dining experience. The menu was designed like a poem collection by Pushkin, with the poem "If You Were Deceived by Life" was printed on the first page. A large portrait also adorns one of the walls. As this year marks the 220th anniversary of the birth of the poet, the restaurant has also been hosting a poetry contest in honor of the poet.

Visiting there during lunch hour with my colleague, I noticed that most of the waiters and waitresses were Russian. Natalia, our waitress, told us that she had only been to China for three months, yet she was able to take our order in Chinese.  

The diner, a military veteran Zhao Xiaobing with his family sitting next to us told us that they enjoy going to Russian restaurants in Beijing a lot, such as the renowned Moscow restaurant in Xizhimen which opened over 60 years ago. They said they did so not just for the food, but also due to Chinese people's special bond with Russia.

"Russia is a country with a long history. It was the first socialist country. At that time, the Soviet people led by Vladimir Lenin defeated the Tsar and established a socialist country," said Zhao.

His wife, Gong Yi, a professor at Capital Medical University, agreed with him about China's special bond with Russia.

"I really like oil paintings by Russian artists. Back in our time, the students who wanted to study abroad would go to Russia, rather than West European or North American countries," she said. "People of our age, grew up watching the Soviet Union's movies, such as 'Lenin in 1918' and 'Lenin in October.' 'There will be bread!," she said, quoting from the latter movie, just as our waitress brought us a basket of fresh baked bread.


blog comments powered by Disqus