Despite nigh a quarter century having passed since the Cold War propaganda machines ground to a halt, Americans sure still love to finger wag at Russia. But as the Ukraine territorial pissing match lingers on, BlackBook has adopted its own ambassadorial role, enthusiastically cultivating Russo – American détente in the most civilized way we know how: over blinis and multiple shots of Russian Standard.
In New York, going Russian had usually meant kitsch Anna Karenina opulence (Firebird, The Russian Tea Room), or visiting your friend Anatoly’s sweet old бабушка (that’s grandma to you Occidentals) out in Little Odessa.
But in 2009, hip St. Petersburg restaurateurs Ginza Project took over the space that housed German tavern Silver Swan (one last payback for the Siege of Leningrad, perhaps?) and opened Mari Vanna, which, despite bearing all the aesthetic hallmarks of a pre-Revolutionary aristo’s country dacha, was immediately one of the hippest scenes in town. Soon followed Onegin, which, alas, defaulted to clichéd opulence whilst also trying to maintain Downtown cool.
But 2014 has seen the Russian invasion spread East, West and South. And it must be said, for all that sinister Boris and Natasha stuff, nobody will make you feel more like family when you take a seat at one of their tables.
BlackBook has been busy raising our bодка glasses all over town and woozily shouting Pussy Riot slogans in solidarity, so that we might file this official report…which will self-destruct in exactly fifteen seconds.
In the shadow of the W-Burg Bridge, the LES’ M57 actually has Russian Tea Room lineage. But here, all the glitz is eschewed in favor of enough boho boisterousness to make you forget Bohemia is actually in the Czech Republic. The interior is a study in “better red than…well, anything.” There’s live music (proprietor Ellen Kaye is a crooner herself), cabaret, art exhibits…and a menu by chef-partner Seth Goldman that leans a little more Downtown quirky, i.e. Tashkent daikon & pomegranate salad, The Pickle Guys Pickle Plate. It’s always a “party” here, so be prepared to swear your allegiance.
THE DISH: Georgian Chicken Chakhobili
THE TIPPLE: Leyla The Sun Goddess, with orange & mint vodka, ginger, lemon and orange juice
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