Feeling some pre-Swine Flu symptoms the other night, I stumbled into the Moscow Deli (on Harbor Blvd. near Baker in Costa Mesa) in search of some Slavic gastro-tonic.
Much of the modest square footage is a deli and grocery store, the Euro-kind typical in large Eastern and Midwestern cities, but extremely rare here in big-box, Pacific-skewed Cali. If you can snag one of the two tables for dining-in, the deli-grocery backdrop (including the staff of friendly, maternal ladies behind the counter) begets a charming atmosphere.
I ordered a bowl of borscht (how could I not) and stuffed cabbage (but not the combo, which I believe came with a salad and assorted carbohydrates). Was surprised that the borscht was so tomatoey...I was expecting beet flavor, beet color, and uniform beet-beetiness, but Moscow Deli's version blends in a considerable amount of tomatoes. Fortified with lots of chopped cabbage and a dollop of sour cream, it was still satisfying, if not what I expected. One disappointment, it was served at a thermo-nuclear temperature, probably due to the fact I arrived around 6:00 p.m., i.e. closer to closing-time than opening-time. They need a lower-powered microwave back there.
The stuffed cabbage was extremely good...Moscow Deli makes it with ground beef, not ground pork as I was accustomed to from previous Ukrainian dines...and it was spicy, too. You'd think spicing up Eastern European food would be a disaster, but the slight kick worked well in execution.
Everything on the menu is available for take-out, and had my refrigerator at home not already been well-stocked, I would have departed with more stuffed cabbage. Cabbage roll cost was the oddly-priced $6.38, plus $4.99 for the soup...somewhat pricey but worth it if you can't bear the thought of another night of Japanese or Mexican food.
3015 Harbor Boulevard, Costa Mesa
[just north of Baker Street, near Rite Aid, and across from Target Greatland]