SF: Katia's Russian Tea Room - the best pel'meni I've ever had
So far all the pel'meni I've tried has been 'meh' It is difficult to dislike a dumpling stuffed with something. However, they have been forgetable.
The menu description hardly does it credit 'Tender beef filled dumplings served in a clear chicken bouillon,with a dollop of sour cream'
The bouillon is rich and flavorful. The plump little dumplings have an excellent beefy filling. A nice dollop of sour cream was in the center.
"These are the best version you will ever eat" I told my friend.
I took him to Katia's because he told me the only food he disliked was Russian. It turned out the only item he tried was a leaden fried piroshki. I wanted to show him there was more to Russian food than that. We also had ...
- B L I N I ....Four golden yeast-raised crepes, brushed with butter and served with sour cream, smoked salmon, salmon caviar and herring (very good)
- SHASHLIK....Thinly sliced strips of leg of lamb, marinated in a dressing of garlic, onions, lemon juice, vinegar and wine. Served with basmati rice and carrots with asparagus. (very good)
- Complimentary sliced rye bread and butter topped with dill (good)
- Easter kulich and pascha (excellent)
- MERINGUE PAVLOVA..Meringue filled with whipping cream and topped with house made fruit kissel (excellent)
- Black current soda (excellent)
- Russian beer 3 (fine for what it was)
- House-blend Russian tea in glasses in podstakanniki (silver glass holders) ... very good
Katia's is such a warm and accomodating place. They did an excellent job of splitting our orders and plating them beautifully.
The meal started with a nice sliced rye served with squares of butter decorated with dill. Both bread and butter were replenished during the meal.
Two open blinis, like pancakes, were served with a fish-shaped glass dish that held pieces of pickled herring and sour cream topped with dill. The other dish held large red salmon eggs and sliced salmon. Spread the blinini with sour cream, top with selected fish, roll and eat. After the first two blini were eaten two more warm blini were brought out.
The pancakes were delicate and tasty. All the fish was quite good.
The lamb was tender and the vinegar the most noticible spicing. Very good rice and fresh veggies.
The kulich and pascha were as good as what i remembered from last year.
The pavlova was lovely.The light meringue rounds topped with whipped chream were next to a delicious pool of the kissel, a sauce made from berries. The combo was terrific.
The tea served with a fresh lemon slice needed the sugar to bring out the best. Then the lovely smokey flavor came out. So good
The selzer with the black currant syrup had a fresh taste to it and we both thought it delicious.
There are eight (I think) Russian beers numbered 1 - 8. One is the lightest and 8 the darkest. While the medium beer I tried didn't stand out on its own, it was perfect with the dishes we had. It was especially good with the herring and smoked salmon.
After three aborted attempts to move to my new home in Guatemala, I'm reluctant to proclaim yet another 'last supper' in SF. However, it looks like this may really be it.
If it is, I can't think of a nicer place to have a final meal than in this tiny intimate restaurant with tables with white tablecloths and softly glowing candles filled with neighborhood people ... a couple sitting close to each other, a father and son, a table of students trying their first Russian food, two friends at another table
The owner comes out to chat about the food and explain how to eat it to those that are new. The same polite, friendly waiter is still there.
For me, this is the best part of SF. It is not the latest and greatest highly hyped eatery ... be it upscale or trendy street vendor or gourmet truck. Sure there is fun in that. But they shoot across the restaurant scene like comets, soon burning out.
For me, it is about the little places where tourists rarely go, the little comfortable neighborhood places ... places where it is all about the food ,,, places where you take a good friend to have an enjoyable evening and eat deliious food.
Katia's Russian Tea Room
600 5th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118
We ate there regularly and even had our wedding there ('97), so glad to hear it is still going strong.
This reminded me -- I've always felt the same way about pelmeni, even handmade pelmeni I've bought in stores. Recently, we bought the frozen house-made beef pelmeni at Babushka deli in Walnut Creek. I thought they were great, much juicier than any version I'd had before. Cherry veriniki were great too. They're no blueberry pierogi, but... hey what can ya do?
Babushka Russian Deli
1475 Newell Ave, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
Their website indicates no weekend lunches. That's too bad since that's when I'd be likely to go there.