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Russian restaurant recs?

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  • ml7 Mar 8, 2011 03:02 PM
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I know that Brighton Beach is the place to go, but I have some out-of-towners coming in who are requesting Russian food, and we are strapped for time and can't make it all the way out there. I'm looking for decently authentic food that isn't ridiculously expensive (so no Russian Tea Room).

My search has led me to Mari Vanna or Russian Samovar, but I have zero knowledge of Russian food and no experience with either. Any suggestions of one or the other? Or any other Manhattan places that would fit the bill?

Thank!

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Russian Samovar
256 W 52nd St, New York, NY 10019

Russian Tea Room
150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

Mari Vanna
41 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003

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  1. You are not going to find good, authentic Russian food in a restaurant in Manhattan. If you are confined to Manhattan, I would suggest picking another cuisine.

    4 Replies
    1. re: gutsofsteel

      Understood.

      However, my visitors have specifically requested Russian, so how about decent Russian in Manhattan?

      1. re: ml7

        Mari Vanna is a decent and authentic Russian restaurant in Manhattan. The atmosphere can be annoying as they blast loud disco-ish music as though you were in a club. Service is very good. Food is just good, not great. It will do in a pinch.

        Disclaimer: I'm Russian.

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        Mari Vanna
        41 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003

        1. re: TatyanaG

          thanks tatyanag! have you ever been for weekend lunch or their brunch buffet?

          1. re: TatyanaG

            T,
            Going to Firebird in a couple of weeks. What is the proper attire for both men and women? Could I wear a black cotton dress with black leather (designer) sandals? Can my husband get away with black (designer) jeans and a dress shirt?
            Thanks!

      2. i'd be lying if i said i was overly familiar with Russian cuisine. that said, i work closely with a girl from Belarus and she has mentioned Mari Vanna several times. she's been and likes it. in fact, we're supposed to go together soon.

        i've been to Firebird on W. 46th just once and thought my dish was quite good. i had Chicken Kiev - not overly adventurous, but it was well prepared. if i had to chose a place on "Restaurant Row", I'd likely go back there.

        Edit: I just checked their menu and prices are higher than I would have thought. it's not much less expensive than RTR.

        5 Replies
        1. re: coasts

          Wrong board for Russian, go to Brooklyn board. Brighton Beach has lots of choices especially the BLue awning place on the boardwalk

          1. re: foodwhisperer

            OP specifically said they cant make it out there

          2. re: coasts

            C,
            How did you dress for Firebird?

            1. re: Vikster

              to be honest, i was there for lunch years ago and didn't know i was going. i definitely didn't dress for it. i must have been business casual. that said, it's on a very touristy block. i think you could get away with almost anything except beach attire. i saw your proposed dress and think you'll be fine.

              1. re: coasts

                Thanks for your reply!

          3. Veselka.

            I'm sure hundreds of outraged Ukrainians will flame me for this, but Russian and Ukrainian food are close enough that your people should be happy with this. They serve kasha. They serve beets. They serve borscht (even though yes, it is the Ukrainian kind).

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            Veselka
            144 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

            4 Replies
            1. re: travelmad478

              Veselka doesn't really qualify as a restaurant...it just an OK coffee shop. Not a place I would take visitors for dinner.

              1. re: City Kid

                Starbucks is a coffee shop. Veselka is a restaurant. It may not be a fancy one, but saying it "doesn't really qualify as a restaurant" is a bit ludicrous. So is calling it a coffee shop.

                What exactly is a restaurant that Veselka isn't? I mean, according to most dictionaries it's a place whose primary purpose is preparing food to be be purchased and consumed on premesis. But maybe you have your own special dictionary, where "dinosaur" means "banana" or something. I mean, maybe you're not really into them, and that's fine, but I wouldn't call them a coffee shop by any stretch of the imagination. Who goes to Veselka primarily for coffee?

                No one. They go for pierogies, borscht, bigas, etc. It's Ukranian by way of American diner food. And for their price, not bad. There's a reason they're always packed and have been in business so long.

                As to whether I'd take visitors - depends on what they're looking for. For a casual, cheap dinner in a boisterous setting, sure. The borscht is great, the rest of the food good bang for your buck.

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                Veselka
                144 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                1. re: sgordon

                  My point about Veselka was that in my opinion it is nothing special, in no way memorable, and certainly not a place I would take out-of-towners requesting Russian food, as stated by the OP. I don't even think the food is particularly good. On a budget in Manhattan, for authentic Ukrainian, I would recommend East Village Ukrainian Restaurant.

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                  Ukrainian East Village Restaurant
                  140 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

              2. re: travelmad478

                the food is not good there. the only reason to go there is that they are open around the clock.

              3. For what it's worth, yelp is running an offer for Russian Samovar. have to get it today or tomorrow before noon.

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                Russian Samovar
                256 W 52nd St, New York, NY 10019

                1. i think Mari Vanna is a fun place, but i find the food overpriced...i think of it more of a place to get a drink and a snack than a full meal...for a full dinner, i'd lean toward Samovar (solid stuffed vine leaves, chicken, smoked salmon, etc)...

                  either could work if your guests are set on Russian, so i'd say it depends on the vibe you want: Samovar is an older midtown vibe: there's a piano, and sometimes they play Russian songs and people get up and dance...Mari Vanna is more trendy downtown vibe w/ Russian-retro trappings...actual Russians enjoy both places...

                  However, one advantage of Samovar is, that you can also hit the Russian Vodka Bar across the street for before/after dinner drinking...

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                  Mari Vanna
                  41 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003

                  1. I was also going to recommend Veselka. Given the former USSR, the food is the same. The borscht is excellent there, as are the pelmeni. I was also thinking of Russian Vodka Room - more bar/loungey, but I have eaten there (granted, after several cheap vodka drinks) and have always enjoyed it (and the staff and piano players are usually very authentic). I have never been to Mari Vanna, so cannot comment.

                    1. Thanks for all the replies! We ended up going to Mari Vanna for lunch, and really enjoyed it.

                      We went at 1pm on a weekend, and were the only people there except for 2 other tables -- both Russian-speaking. I can't comment on the authenticity of the food, but it's always a good sign to see ethnic restaurants frequented by people of that ethnicity! The place itself is beautiful in a kitschy kind of way--lots of china, crystal, and pink. Very thoughtfully decorated with attention to detail.

                      There is no lunch menu on weekends; you just order off the dinner menu. There were also a few things that were not available--we were told that they tend to sell out from the night before during the weekends, and weren't completely prepped yet. No biggie, since we didn't have our hearts set on anything in particular.

                      For a party of 5 we ordered: pickled herring, charcuterie plate, sunflower salad, borscht, mushroom soup, mushroom blinis, pelmeni, and a napoleon for dessert. Everything was delicious.

                      I do agree with one of the posters about price--the bill ended up being pretty substantial, considering that we were going for just a light lunch and didn't have anything to drink. However, the atmosphere was wonderful, the service was fantastic (very patient with us Russian-food-newbies), and the food very tasty. Even though it was pricey for what we got, I'd definitely go back.

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                      Mari Vanna
                      41 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003