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Russian Renaissance

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  • Tony Roder Mar 2, 2002 08:48 PM
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Someone on Channel 4's Bay Area Back Roads just recommended Russian Renaissance. Since I caught only the tail end of the segment, I wonder whether he had good reason to recommend what I understand is a pretty tired, worn-out restaurant, about which I have read nothing but negative comments until now.

Any recent first-hand experiences among the chowhounds?

T.

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  1. z
    Zach Georgopoulos

    It WAS a tired, worn out restaurant -- but my understanding is that it no longer is. That's why I won't go back. I absolutely loved the fact that it was tired and worn out. My friend Big Ray, a chowhownd if there ever was one, and I used to hang out there for drinks years ago. At that time, the original owner, Boris, would tend bar and tell us stories about how his family escaped to China after the war and eventually he made it here. He also explained that the murals on the wall were paid for in Vodka. There was an old framed and yellowing Herb Caen article on one wall that described the scene at the RR the night the tanks rolled into Prague. Boris would routinely short-change us on our ice cold Pertzovka, and the really, really bad musicians would serenade us since we were the only customers in the place, aside from the occasional drunk, crying Russian poet (unless we decided to double-date and bring some girls there -- needless to say they'd never be seen with either of us again). Yes, I spent many happy, surreal nights at the old RR!

    Anyhow, Boris is dead, and his family sold the place a few years ago. From what I've heard, the current owner/chef has actually turned it into quite a culinary mecca as far as Russian food goes. I kid when I say I won't go back -- I actually intend to one of these days, but I just have to brace myself for the thought of the RR without Boris, the dirty red rug, that bad violinist and out-of-tune piano/bar thing, and the eternal christmas decorations. I understand that the murals are still there though. Go -- but it won't be the tired, worn out restaurant I once loved...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

      I must have been there in the tired old days. Have not had the courage to go back - partly because I don't like Vodka which might serve to soften the blow. The Russian area has moved from Clement where there used to be two outstanding Russian restaurants to Anza or Balboa and about 8th Ave. There is Katya's which is a little upscale and a deli restaurant across the street where you can eat or take out delicious baked goods.

      1. re: Greg

        That's Balboa & 5th. The restaurant/bakery is Cinderella. There are also numerous Russian delis and/or bakeries on Geary in the outer avenues.

    2. If for nothing else, go for a drink just to see the place.

      It truly is a remarkable ambience.

      The current owner is Polish, by the way.

      My wife (1/2 Polish) and I plan to bring her parents to RR when they visit from the East Coast.

      This will not be for another couple months, but I'll be sure to issue a small report on our experience.