Katia's Russian Tea Room dinner report [San Francisco]
I had a great dinner there a few nights back with a large group. The owner sets the tone in a way that makes feel like you're having dinner at a friend's relative's house. She's a candid guide to Russian food and the restaurant's history.
Pel'meni : the star of the show, and so good we wound up re-ordering twice. The handmade dough made only from flour and water is taughtly wrapped around a beef filling. The ground beef is from Guerra Meats and it's spiced with lots of pepper. We got the soup version and the pan fried versions, and both were delicious++. There were 16-20 pel'meni per order.
Blini : four freshly made ~8" yeast dough crepes with toppings served on the side. We broke them into quadrants which was enough to lather on sour cream and top with either smoked salmon, salmon caviar, or herring. The herring could have had a brighter spicing, but the salmon items and sour cream, topped with dill, were great matches for the blini.
The cold appetizer platter had eggplant caviar, dill pickles, and pickled mushrooms. The eggplant caviar was more like caponata than baba ghanoush. I didn't care for the pickles.
Shashlik : marinated strips of leg of lamb. Lots of flavor in the meat, which for some reason reminded me a bit of lomo saltado.
Blinchiki : freshly made. I think this is the same thing as a blintze. The owner used a cheese she had leftover from Easter cakes. Lovely and not too sweet. She topped it kissel, a strained puree she thickens with cornstarch and makes from things including raspberry, blackberry, and cranberry juice. Fantastic.
Suggested Richmond district dinner dumpling crawl: Katia's (fried pelmeni), Cafe Europa (potato pierogies and cabbage/mushroom pierogies), Shanghai House (xiao long bao), and Chili House (red oil wontons). Not sure which place for shui jiao (Chinese dumplings) to wedge in.