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Russian Gourmet, Lake Forest

This place just opened a week or so ago, very nice and a really unique resource as far as I know, in the south OC area.

There are a few small tables and chairs, but most of the area in this bright and airy space overlooking Lake Forest Blvd is taken up by aisles and shelves full of Russian items both sweet and savory. There are lots of fascinating juices and sodas, individually wrapped sweets and chocolates (which are truly delicious!), teas of course, frozen dumpling items (pelemenis and varations thereof), Russian butters, sauces and so on. There is also a cold case filled with various Russian style sausages, cheeses, and other charcuterie-type items. Atop this case sits freshly made pieroshki, danishes....

Also in the cold case is a variety of very reasonably priced caviars...amazingly reasonable in fact, like 6 bucks for a good - sized tin. Intriguing...

There are also locally-made breads in the eastern european style..hearty rye breads etc.

Atop the shelves on the far wall even sit bags of branches and leaves in different varieties, all for the purpose of beating your fellow comrade in the sauna with (for circulation improvement and other percieved benefits, I believe).

Elena, the woman running the place and co-owner (I believe), is very welcoming and gracious, and she was happy to answer my questions about the items, many of which were somewhat new to me.

I bought some delicious-looking chicken pelemeni (from the freezer case), and also had to get a container of sour cherry vereneki, which I was really intrigued with as Elena explained to me that they are not really dessert items but rather can be enjoyed as a side or main, with some (russian style, of course) sour cream as a topping / sauce. So what could be bad ???

They have a menu of items to be enjoyed for lunch etc., but unfortunately I didn't have a look - will have to go back soon !

Russian Gourmet

22722 Lambert Street
Suite 1701
Lake Forest CA 92630

Hours of Operation:
9 a.m. - 9 p.m.

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  1. Thanks for the heads up, Mike. Looks like they have a rudimentary website:


    1. Interesting. I hope they survive. A few years ago, a similar Eastern European deli was up the street in the same center as Staples. They carried a good variety of sausages and other meats at reasonable prices. Ownership was also very friendly. But they barely lasted a year. Hopefully these guys do better. It would be a nice addition to south county.

      1. Just a quickie follow-up - last night I served the sour cherry vereniki (quick boil in salted water, drain, then quick saute in some good butter), fan-tastic ! Particularly with the sour cream that they have there - can't say really if the sour cream was that special from standard, but I do know that these dumplings and the sour cream were really, really delicious ! I must go back for more good stuff.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mikester

          Thanks for this rec. I followed your direction with the cherry vereniki and they were sensational! mmmmm...next time I'm in LA I want to go check out the Stolichnaya bakery where they came from!

        2. Mikester, do you know if they make a cabbage pierogi? Every Lent, I get nostalgic for the pierogi from an Eastern Orthodox church in my college town back East. Would love it if this place can fix that itch.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Professor Salt

            I do not know but would be surprised if they don't - IIRC there were numerous varieties and cabbage is certainly a staple item there. I intend to visit again very soon - maybe today at lunch - and will check.

            Oh, and Elena told me at last week's visit that they plan to begin offering fresh blintzes soon - I can't wait !

            1. re: Professor Salt

              Okay, I went today and they do have cabbage piroshki. These are nice-sized (like a good-sized empanada), and baked fresh (these are not in the freezer but are made fresh, sitting in covered baskets on top of the display case near the register). I bought a few to take home and have for dinners. They also have various other styles (meat, egg, and a Georgian-style meat pie that is larger and has been fried - forget the name.

              1. re: mikester

                Thanks for the followup mikester. I was thinking the dumpling-like pierogi, and not the baked empanada-like piroshki, but all the same, I need to haul my butt over there and have a look.

                1. re: Professor Salt

                  Last night we heated up the assortment of piroshki that I'd bought. They were quite good, though not as good as my dream piroshki, which I've had only at one location - a little shop called "Piroshki Piroshki !" at the Pike Place Market in Seattle. Those ones use a puff-pastry style casing, whereas the ones at Russian Gourmet are more of a dough style.

                  Turns out they all appear to have been fried, unlike my initial impression/recollection. I heated them up at a low temperature, just to get them heated through, since these were pre-cooked. All but the Georgian-style one were tasty but a little lighter on the filling than my wife and I would have preferred. Our favorite one was the Georgian-style, which had a nicely-spiced ground-beef filling. They were all good though and worth trying.

                  1. re: Professor Salt

                    Was in yet again today at lunch and saw that the freezer case now has sauerkraut pierogi

              2. Oh thank you for the reviews! I've driven by a few times now and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw "Russian Gourmet". I am going to RUN over there tomorrow.

                Russian style sour cream is definitely better than normal sour cream (knudsens for example) At Jordan Market on Alicia (by the 5 freeway) they sell Russian village style sour cream (comes in a yellow tub) that I go out of my way for to buy when I need sour cream. I wonder if that's the same one.... I guess I will find out tomorrow when I go to Russian Gourmet!

                My mom will have a heart attack when she gets fresh blintzes! She's always buying those dreadful ones at the supermarket!

                We were in Russia this summer and I died over the delicious pelmenis I had in Moscow so it will be nice to try theirs on the fly before I attempt to make it. Thanks again for all the tips!

                2 Replies
                1. re: junglekitte

                  Yes, that sour cream is really good, at our house it's being consumed at a faster rate than any other sour cream I've purchased before !

                  It says "Canadian Style" on the tub yet there's a graphic of a traditional russian-style peasant with a small wooden barrel and clabbard (sp?), and there is Cyrilic writing - the tub is not yellow but white.

                  I didn't see the blintzes yet, but there is plenty of other good stuff !

                  Oh, also for fans of herring, the cold case has many assortments of jarred herrings, including the much-loved rollmop (I must admit that I'm still a bit afraid of this stuff, so I can't vouch for it - but I need to get over it, as I love sardines, anchovies and sushi).

                  Oh, and do grab an assortment of those Russian chocolates that are sold by the pound, the wrappings are beautiful and generally don't easily reveal to a non-Russian speaker what is within, but it doesn't really matter because they're all really good !

                  1. re: junglekitte

                    Another quick update - I popped in to the place yesterday (for a cheese danish, but ended up buying a russian specialty which was like a puff-pastry turnover, with a mild, white cheese, only very slightly sweet - very good, and a meat pie), and they're now serving blintzes ! Also, they have a variation on the theme - blintzes with caviar on top - for $9 I believe - I must try this one, haven't yet done so.

                  2. How is the selection of zakuskis? Pickeled things etc. I don't go down to Lake Forest area but once a year but would like to pick up a treat for my set-up crew at the Dana Point Tasll Ship Festival

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: SeaCook

                      They have a pretty interesting selection - I just picked up a jar of pickled garlic (cloves with the green shoots), which is very nice, they also have pickled tomatoes of various types, of course various sauerkrauts, beets I believe, and different types of pickled cucumbers.

                    2. So I finally went in there today...I really liked the selection of various Russian treats! Too bad I don't read any Russian! :( I picked up some frozen sour cherry vareneki, beef/pork pelmeni, Russian sour cream (the other brand lol), a strudel with cherries and walnuts, and a handful of assorted chocolates. I really loved the selection of candies you can choose from by the pound. I went in with a lot of restraint so I picked just 5 little candies but I could tell I would love to try them all someday!
                      I asked the woman, Olga, behind the counter to tell me what one of the cakes were in the pastry section and she had NO idea what I was talking about. It was a shame because it looked good but I wasn't about to buy it not knowing what it was........
                      Next time I will probably pick up some Russian tea, herrings, and try some of their charcuterie. :) I also went next door to eat at the new Greek place that just opened! I had a good (not great) Greek salad and my dining partner had a very tasty moussaka. The owner was very friendly and gave us free iced tea with our lunches. :)

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: junglekitte

                        What is the name of the Greek restaurant, please?

                        1. re: ciaolette

                          Efzyn Greek
                          22722 Lambert Street
                          Lake Forest, CA 92630
                          (949) 698-4159

                      2. There used to be a similar shop, in almost the same place, that closed a couple of years ago. It was run by a husband and wife and the husband was supposedly transferred back to Eastern Europe somewhere so they closed. It had an amazing assortment of cheeses and meats. I saw Russian Gourmet the other day (on the way to Bagels & Brew). Didn't have time to stop.

                        1. As a novice Russian eater, if I were to go to this market, what things should I pick up that would be great to eat. Lets say the 3 most vital things to eat whether it be a dessert, meat, etc. Id like to pick some things up here and support an up and coming small business, so some examples would help...

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: raidahguy

                            I think any of the frozen pelmeni or vareniki (dumplings) would be a great start. There is a large variety in their freezer section of different meat fillings, potato, cabbage, and cherry.
                            There is a huge section of baskets filled with various Russian candies. You could buy a variety to try.
                            You could pick up some caviar too.:)
                            They also have a cafe where you can get borscht or other things to eat there at the tables.

                            1. re: junglekitte

                              I went last week and finally got around to trying the vareniki I bought. Got the smallish cherry ones and the larger sauerkraut & carrot ones. Different brands, but both were in the freezer case. I liked the thin skins on these vareniki, which cooked up delicate, rather than thick and doughy.

                              They were a thousand times better than the thick, doughy, and pasty pierogi sold at Costco. As far as my frozen pierogi needs are concerned, I've found a good source for them at Russian Gourmet. I'll have to go back and try some of the other flavors.

                              I had them heat up a fried piroshki filled with cabbage. It was just ok. Not enough seasoning in the filling, and the dough wasn't salted enough. But still, I'll try another one next time I visit.

                              Thanks, mikester, for the heads up on this place.

                            2. re: raidahguy

                              Add to that something vegetable that's pickeled. It can be anything that takes your fancy. Mushrooms, beets, cucmber etc.

                              1. re: raidahguy

                                Check the freezer case for small, chocolate-covered, sweetened cream cheese bars. I'm not exactly sure what kind of cheese is in them, but that's what they taste like. I used to buy them at the Russian store in Costa Mesa. They carry several brands, one of which is really good, and some of which are not. They're so cheap, though, you can (as I often did) buy one of each.

                                1. re: emily

                                  I'm not 100% sure (haven't seen these ones directly) but a similar thing is sold in New York's Brighton Beach and it's made with tvorog, which Germans call Quark.

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                      here in the us, russians/ukrainians generally substitute farmers or hoop cheese for "tvorog". in southern cal, it is available at jon's markets and many other places.

                                      btw: in russian: "pirozhki" is plural. "pirozhok" is singular. also (in russian, not polish) "pierogi" is the plural of "pierog" and "varenik" is singular, "vareniki" is plural. a pirozhok is a single, hand held concoction which is usually fried or baked. a varenik is similar, but if usually boiled (sometimes pan fried after boiling). a pierog is a large flat concoction, usually baked on a 12x15 or similar baking sheet with a layer of dough on the bottom, then a filling, and another layer of dough on top. it is cut into small (2"x3", or so) sections and served.

                                      the weird one in all this are "pelmeni". these are similar to won-tons and originated in siberia. pelmeni is plural and there is no singular for it. they are always served in batches.

                                      1. re: justanotherpenguin

                                        Technically the singular of пельмени (pel'meni) is пельмень (pel'men') but you're right, it would be like talking about one scissor.

                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          well, my friend, i must give some background before capitulating. my russian/cossack father and ukrainian mother came here in 1949. i was born in 1950. my dad was a russian lit professor in russia (born in 1900). he corrected every paper that i ever wrote in russian school on saturdays for 13 years. i did not speak any english until i went to kindergarden.

                                          pelmeni were a staple around the house. my mother and grandmother would sit and make batches & batches & etc.... i have never heard anything referred to as a pel'men'. (sorry, i don't know how to use my cyrillic keyboard.)

                                          after seeing your post i called a good friend who was actually born in russia in the 30's, came here as a young man, served as a translator in the us air force (accompanied nixon to moscow). he first agreed with me, but decided to look it up in the BIG russian dictionary. the singular exists! though the dictionary itself says that it is never used.

                                          so i surrender. and if you and i ever go to a russian restaurant, or if you come over, i will buy and/or offer you a "pel'men'" !!! thanx for the lesson.

                                          ps: can you imagine the expression on the wait-person's face?

                                          1. re: justanotherpenguin

                                            I'm tempted to order one just to see the look. "Daite menya odin pel'men'..."

                                            It'd be like going into an Italian place and ordering "un raviolo".

                                2. The Chowhound Team split off a question about how to cook frozen pelmeni to the Home Cooking board. If you have any tips or recipes, please share them there. Thanks.


                                  EDIT: Sorry, the formerly dead link is fixed.