Moscow Deli - Costa Mesa
Feeling some pre-Swine Flu symptoms the other night, I stumbled into the Moscow Deli (on Harbor Blvd. near Baker in Costa Mesa) in search of some Slavic gastro-tonic.
Much of the modest square footage is a deli and grocery store, the Euro-kind typical in large Eastern and Midwestern cities, but extremely rare here in big-box, Pacific-skewed Cali. If you can snag one of the two tables for dining-in, the deli-grocery backdrop (including the staff of friendly, maternal ladies behind the counter) begets a charming atmosphere.
I ordered a bowl of borscht (how could I not) and stuffed cabbage (but not the combo, which I believe came with a salad and assorted carbohydrates). Was surprised that the borscht was so tomatoey...I was expecting beet flavor, beet color, and uniform beet-beetiness, but Moscow Deli's version blends in a considerable amount of tomatoes. Fortified with lots of chopped cabbage and a dollop of sour cream, it was still satisfying, if not what I expected. One disappointment, it was served at a thermo-nuclear temperature, probably due to the fact I arrived around 6:00 p.m., i.e. closer to closing-time than opening-time. They need a lower-powered microwave back there.
The stuffed cabbage was extremely good...Moscow Deli makes it with ground beef, not ground pork as I was accustomed to from previous Ukrainian dines...and it was spicy, too. You'd think spicing up Eastern European food would be a disaster, but the slight kick worked well in execution.
Everything on the menu is available for take-out, and had my refrigerator at home not already been well-stocked, I would have departed with more stuffed cabbage. Cabbage roll cost was the oddly-priced $6.38, plus $4.99 for the soup...somewhat pricey but worth it if you can't bear the thought of another night of Japanese or Mexican food.
3015 Harbor Boulevard, Costa Mesa
[just north of Baker Street, near Rite Aid, and across from Target Greatland]
This is a great little OC secret! It's a lot of fun just to go in and wander about! This place has more than just Russian food - you'll find teas, and vegetables (in jars) you've never seen before, plus grain products, hot "Comrade" style mustard, frozen pierogies that you boil (Russian housewive's favorite quick dinner meal) and lots of unique cakes, and fresh breads. The deli counter runs along 2 walls and behind the counter at the back of the store are samovars (Russian tea makers) and those unique Russian guitars on display. Lots of different deli meats to try you're unlikely to find elsewhere. One of those few unique places along a boulevard of mostly cookie-cutter (franchise) eateries. Thanks for the reminder JB!