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Feb 1, 2007 08:05 AM

ISO best Russian Restaurant (any borough)

Looking to do Russian or Ukrainian for Valentine's Day...authenticity and good food WAY more important than ambiance. Any recommendations would really be appreciated!!! Thanks,

--Janet (GG)

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  1. I can' t recommend a specific establishment, but the last time I was in Brighton Beach there were several great looking Russian Resaurants. I had delicious borscht and perogis on the side. There was very little English being spoken at the surrounding tables. If you scout out the area, I'm sure you'll find someplace nice.

    1. Hey, thanks...! Incidentally, what *dishes* would you recommend? (I know little more than borscht and blintzes, myself...)

      1 Reply
      1. re: gaijingirl

        I'm attaching a couple of pictures from a recent trip to the Oceanview Cafe in Brighton Beach. The food is ok but I got pissed off because it faces the street and there is no "ocean view" to be found. It's an ugly little restaurant and not good for lingering over a Valentine's meal, and the service is sullen as hell.

        The soup is a myasnaya solyanka - a really sharp, acidic, tomato-tinged clear soup with all sorts of goodies in the bottom: different kinds of sausage, black olives. This is very traditional and very good. But you have to like frankfurters, as they often appear in "mixed meat solyanka".

        There are some bliny pictured, too, with red caviar (trout, I think). These are not to be missed.

      2. Veselka on 2nd Ave., E Village---GREAT cheap Ukranian food, funky old-fashioned but hip atmosphere.

        Uncle Vanya on W. 54 St. between 8-9 Aves. for good, authentic, cheap Russian food.

        1. Further to my comments above -

          I love Anyway Cafe in the East Village - menu is here:
          It's jazzed up with a bunch of French stuff but the old standards are there and they are well-prepared: great herring plate, pelmeni are deliciously light and have better-quality fillings than what you will get on Brighton Beach.

          In the same neighbourhood: I don't really agree that there's anything special about Veselka.

          I lived in Russia for quite a while so trust me :) I've never had a stellar meal in Brighton Beach. This might be considered controversial, but much as I love the country and its cooking, Russian food just isn't that good, objectively! It's hard to get blown away by piles of pelmeni and stringy shashlyk. A little bit of French influence is a good thing, in my opinion.

          If you do go to Anyway they have the most wonderful homemade honey ginger vodka that you order by the carafe.

          4 Replies
          1. re: frenetica

            ok, I'm trusting you know any Russian restaurant in NYC that serves roasted sturgeon?

            1. re: serious

              Follow-up - I was talking with a Russian friend last night who's a chef and lives in Brighton Beach and he said the absolute best pelmeni are at Cafe Glechik. He said that aside from Glechik he thinks the Russian food in Manhattan is better. I think in the 25-and-under in the Times they did Glechik a few months age, and here's another good review:

              Re: sturgeon, I've only really ever seen it smoked. I think Baryshnikov's Samovar place or the Russian Tea Room probably have fancy preparations of it but it doesn't sound like those places are what you are looking for...

              1. re: frenetica

                I've been to Glechik many times. It's VERY VERY good. -- I'm Russian though so its subjective. Once we shared a table with strangers and I don't think they liked our recommendations. (They had never had Russian before)

                The place is often packed. So expect it.

            2. re: frenetica

              this sounds like an interesting place-I am going to try it--thanks for the rec.

            3. Followup: We ended up going to Vanya's for Valentines Day - mainly because Brighton Beach was too far of a drive for a Wednesday night. It actually ended up being a bit of a disappointment...the order was blini, borscht, varniky, and golubsky (cabbage rolls) - all which ended up kind of bland and unmemorable. The service was nice - but they forgot us after we'd finished the entrees, and didn't clean the plates for about 20 minutes. The only highlight of the evening was the dessert...both the cherry dumplings (very good!) and the walnut tort, which my husband praised. It's too bad - I was looking forward to the evening. Does all Eastern European food tend towards bland? (I had a similar reaction to the food at East Village Ukrainian, earlier in the month...) Thanks...!

              5 Replies
              1. re: gaijingirl

                Re "blandness"----I'd prefer to say that most Russian food, at its best, is subtly spiced (like most Northern food: Scandinavian, Scottish, even N. Japanese). The "spices" are pretty much limited to dill, salt, black pepper, and maybe some cardamom or cinammon in baking. And because it's a northern cuisine, a lot of the basic ingredients are "winter foods"---root veggies, potatoes, sour cream, and pickled or preserved fruits and veggies. So generally you shouldn't expect piquant or hot food when you go to a Russian restaurant. Some Russian restaurants will include food from the Republic of Georgia, which is popular in Russia and filled with garlic and exotic spices and fresher ingredients----kebabs with garlic, walnut, or sour plum sauces, etc.

                1. re: CJEamadeus

                  Dear CJE -

                  Thanks for the heads up - next time around, I'll search out more Georgian food. When I went to Uncle Vanyas, I was expecting more *vibrancy* in the food, any flavor intenseness, be it hot, sweet or rich. Years, and years ago, I tried my mother's borscht and remembered it as rich, and thick and pretty darned good. Yet Vanya's was a light broth, kind of like a basic tomato soup. (Okay, maybe hers wasn't authentic.) But I do love sour and pickled tastes, so maybe Georgian is the way to go. (I wonder, does Primorsky's do Georgian...or Cafe Glechik?)

                  1. re: gaijingirl

                    Primorski is Georgian and large. Glechik is Ukrainian and small.

                  2. re: CJEamadeus

                    thanks for the explanation--I like Russian food and will seek out Georgian food-sounds good too--any suggestions????

                  3. re: gaijingirl

                    Traditional Eastern European food is/can be pretty bland, indeed. My mother's family is Polish (still in Poland) and as a kid going to visit and being served plate after plate, meal after meal of food that was various shades of grey was disheartening. The exception I've found is sausage (which can be quite garlicky and sometimes peppery) and bread (just plain good bread)...and the Eastern Europeans LOVE their mushrooms and prepare them in ways that are delicious. Ever had a pickled mushroom? Mmmm!

                    I've also heard that the food at Uncle Vanya's can be kind of hit or miss. The food is not spectacular, but I love the atmosphere at the Russian Vodka Room. And that's not to say the food is bad. It's more of a place to go and enjoy a few drinks, then realize you are hungry and order a few dishes of food (and more drinks).