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Uncle Vanya Dinner Review

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  • G3B Jan 22, 2007 01:25 PM
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We went for dinner last night. Overall it was so so and something different since I rarely have Russian food but I will probably not be back. We had 3 apps and an entree and dessert. Apps were cold chopped eggplant salad, potato dumplings with mushrooms and onions, blini with smoked salmon and sour cream. Entree was stuffed cabbage and dessert was russian cherry dumplings and russian tea with cherry preserves and cookies. Eggplant salad was good but way too cold, straight out of the refrigerator and would have tasted much better if it were room temperature or slightly cooler than that. Dumpling skins way too doughy and thick on both potato dumplings and cherry dumplings. Same skin on both. Rest of the items were so, so, best one we thought was the blini.

Service was extremely slow. We had to constantly flag down the waiter for water, check. etc. asked for few items twice bec. he clearly forgot and came back to dining area without it. It was freezing in the restaurant. Saw a few patrons put on their jacket, we both ordered tea with dessert to warm up. The seats are hard wooden chairs which I always find extremely uncomfortable and detest in a restaurant. Only other russian restaurant I have been to in the city is Firebird which is much more upscale so I am not sure that it is a fair comparison.

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  1. I thought the food here was terrible. Go to the russian vodka room and order some apps, the food there is much much better.

    1. Went here with a groups of people - including a Russian guy who insisted that this is the best Russian in Manhattan in terms of authenticity. It helps, as he admitted, to have someone who speaks the language with you. Service is slow - and I don't get the food. It is all pretty creamy and everything is just a little bland for my taste. I don't get this cuisine - and I have been to two or three Russian places now. I always treat the food as something to put in my stomach to buffer how trashed I get on all the vodka.

      1 Reply
      1. re: missjeanne

        The food in Uncle Vanya is actually nearest to what you'll get in Russia (or some Central Asian States that technically used to be part of the old USSR = Russia). Service has never been the strong point of "Soviet" style restaurants and a visit to Russia or any of the Central Asian states will prove that. I spent the earlier part of the year traveling in Central Asia (Kazashktan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan) and Russia (Moscow and St. Petes) and you would know how to distinguish a place that is still 'Soviet' style and pretty much try to avoid it as some don't even have toilets and most of these places have not been refurbished/refreshed since they gained there independence from the USSR in the 90's. But, anyway - the food in Uncle Vanya at best is homestyle Russian cooking and there version of Chicken Kiev, Blinis, Pelmenis and the Beef Stew are actually pretty good - true to it's roots...but, may just not be your cup of tea. Service is indeed slow there but, has always been friendly the few times I have been there and the price is really cheap for the location. It's actually one place we go to enroute to an opera or a performance as it is walking distance to the lincoln center...and rarely full on a weekend.

      2. I'm a Russian girl so can speak with authority =) The food at Vanya is awful, go somewhere else, the vodka at the vodka room is much better also.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jsgjewels

          I think it's just not my thing in terms of cuisine - but I'd love some Manhattan, not Brooklyn, reccomendations if you have them. I have been to a couple and I'd be interested to try a place you like. Thanks. And I agree about the vodka being better at the vodka room.

        2. I concur that the vodka room has good vodka (been there for the shots and its a very good deal) but, never really tried vodka at Vanya. Anyway, I would be interested to know as well if there are indeed better options for your cuisine - Foodwise in Manhattan.

          1. Frankly I don't really seek out Russian food in the city, because it's always better at home anyway (home is California), but like I said the apps at the vodka room are very decent, especially with a carafe or two. I haven't been to the Samovar, but the ownership is the same as the vodka room I believe, so I'm sure the quality is pretty good (but the scene is older and more traditional i believe). Some of the polish or romanian type places in the east village might fall under the same category of cuisine, so those might be good options if you're looking for something specific like pieroshki or vareniki.

            1. The EV options are just okay. No better than Vanya, Russian V Room nor Samovar as I was able to try most of them when I lived in the EV for 2 years. I actually prefer the food/drinks in Pravda at Lafayette but, that's more Russian inspired fusion cuisine. I guess after a little too much to drink almost everything seems to taste better as too much alcohol dulls your taste buds. I've recently had really good meat shashliks in this Bukharan Jewish Uzbek spot in the Diamond District which also serves some Russian basic fare (pelmenis et al) but, I have yet to try the other stuffs there. I guess I really need to venture out to Brighton Beach or Rego Park to seek better Russian food.

              1. I went to Uncle Vanya's last night and had a very positive experience. Yes, the service was slow. However, the food was very good with the exception being the bread- I know that Russian bread is supposed to be rustic, but that doesn't mean that it has to be dry. That being said, everything else was VERY good. Unlike the earlier post, I enjoyed the eggplant salad- it tasted somewhat pickled and quite unique. The borscht, served hot was refreshing with lots of fresh dill. The stuffed cabbage reminded me of the cabbage I had growing up in Jewish delis but better because it wasn't sweet (which was a plus for me). My friend had the beef stew- it arrived looking like a huge pile of meat atop roasted potatoes- no veggies or broth! But the beef was absolutely yummy. Because the service was so slow I did not order desert. Overall, a very good Russian bet in midtown.

                1. My two cents:

                  I went to Uncle Vanya's with my husband for Valentines day - and had a very disappointing dinner. Everything was too bland, and the service was terrible. (They completely forgot we existed.) In my discussions on Chowhound, I've since been told that Primorsky (and Georgian food in general) is probably a better bet. But then, that's outer boroughs....

                  1. I concur that Georgian food which technically used to be a region of the USSR does have the better food --just more complex flavor across the board. Their cheese bread and pork shashliks are just yummy!