From Russia With Love

By Raphael Pallais of The Plaza
August 2, 2012 | New York, United States
From Russia With Love
Brasserie Pushkin

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

And by that I mean the spate of new, fabulous Russian restaurants that have been opening in New York.

All of them share a penchant for the exquisite — with décor that ranges from elegant to opulent — and a pride for native cuisine (filtered through the prism of the farm-to-table movement, of course).

Just a stone’s throw from The Plaza (not to mention a block east of The Russian Tea Room), the newest addition, Brasserie Pushkin, has come boldly: with chandeliers and frescoes that could be at home in the palaces of St. Petersburg. It’s the first American outpost of one of Moscow’s most celebrated restaurants, Café Pushkin, known for its impeccable service.

The menu at the New York restaurant arrives in the form of the “Pushkin Telegraph,” featuring cute little “articles” from yesteryear. (“There has been another battle in Denmark. Hamburg, Baden and other cities are in a general muss...”) It’s a fun read while you wait for your ukha (sturgeon, salmon and pike in consommé) or potato and mushroom pirojki.

You’ll find a similar strain of whimsy at Onegin in the Village, where the ceilings and tables are scrawled with the writings of Pushkin. The 19th-century-inspired furnishings are chic, and the menu full of Russian bites: blini with caviar and sour cream, borscht and dumplings.

If you favor a more relaxed, shabby-chic vibe, the pretty Mari Vanna (pictured below) gives you the same period décor but with a farmhouse feel (think: peeling wallpaper exposing the brick walls behind). A Russian menu also gives you authentic drinks — like kvas, a Russian-style root beer, and sour cherry juice — not to mention house-infused vodka. With every flavor under the sun (apple and mint, cucumber and dill, honey and oats), you can sample by the carafe or choose a flight of shots.