Korushka, or smelt as it is better known in English, is a small fish very particular to St Petersburg. It can be found in Ladoga Lake, in the Gulf of Finland or in the Baltic Sea, depending on which part of its migration route it is caught. It is generally a soft fish, and the bones get softened after cooking so it can be eaten whole. Korushka has been popular since the time of Peter the Great, and it appears on the specials menu of St Petersburg restaurants during its peak season in April and early May.
The best place to find korushka in St Petersburg is in the restaurant that takes its name from the fish. Here, korushka is not just a pleasant addition to the menu, it’s a signature dish. It is served in a variety of ways. Some are more traditional – fried, smoked or pickled – while others are more experimental: in tempura, in a pie or made into a pâté. This is the one place in St Petersburg where you can get korushka all year round.
Russian Fishing offers a fun and interactive way to take part in preparing your meal. There is a pond on the grounds of the restaurant where visitors can try their luck at catching the fish to be cooked afterward. Unfortunately, you can’t catch your own korushka, but it does appear on the menu in late spring, served in large, generous portions. Try it as a main dish or as a beer snack.
True to Russian traditions, Russkaya Ryumochnaya is also keen on korushka. So much so that they have an offer every Sunday: unlimited korushka for 1100 rubles (£13) per person. It’s a great way to get your fill before leaving St Petersburg. Don’t fill up too much on korushka, though, as there are many other Russian staples to be enjoyed here as well.
Cococo plays around with traditional Russian recipes and foods, giving them a new life and a new appearance. The menu largely depends on the availability of local ingredients, and the appearance of korushka in local waters does not go unnoticed. Expect the korushka to be experimental and unusual. In previous years, korushka has been served on a smørrebrød or made into a cake.
At Taverna Grolle, the fish on the menu largely depends on the catch of the day. Depending on the season, various kinds of local fish are served, so korushka appears on the menu in the spring. It is usually cooked on the large in-house grill and served with potato and pickled vegetables. A simple option, but also one of the most affordable in the city.
Clean Plates Society also waits for the start of the korushka season before adding it to their menu, usually around April. Previously, they have served korushka in big portions, brought to the table in a large frying pan with potatoes. It’s a great dish to share with a group over a few pints.
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In a restaurant styled to recreate a royal dining experience, expect nothing less than a royal serving of korushka. Although it is a widely available fish and generally isn’t too expensive, at Tsar it can be easily mistaken for a delicacy. During korushka season, it is served in a more traditional style with a side of potatoes.