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Cafe Levonya report

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Restaurants & Bars

Cafe Levonya report

David "Zeb" Cook | Oct 20, 2002 02:37 PM

Well, as good Chowhounds my wife and I did our duty and went for dinner to Cafe Levonya in Arlington (actually not such a chore since it's an easy walk from the house). It's a small place, just past Jason St. with about 6 tables, a deli counter, and small grocery selection (they have baked yogurt in the cooler, my wife's favorite). It's all a bright sunflower orange and nicely done with a little light jazz for background music and quiet noise levels. They don't serve alcohol but you can bring wine, as evidenced by the large table of Russian-speaking folks who were going through several bottles. They offer various teas and coffees.

For appetizers we started with a salad of shavings of cured dry beef, feta, olives, peppers, cherry tomatoes, cumcumbers, and greens served with a "Georgian" spicy sauce of peppers, eggplant and other stuff (similar to ajvar). The salad was huge and filled a platter making it easy to share.

The second appetizer was herring and potatoes -- thick slices of very lightly cured or fresh herring (we couldn't decide), slabs of boiled potatoes, and raw onions with a bowl of sunflower oil for dip. My wife, the "I don't eat fish, but I love herring" one, pronounced it excellent. Again, there was easily enough to share.

For main dishes, Helen had a dish of cherry vareniki (cherry dumplings) awash in butter and served with sour cream and cherry jam. It came in a covered bowl which was good because there was a long wait until my entree came. I had lamb khinkhali(sp?), dumpling purses stuffed with minced lamb and again liberally dressed with butter. The lamb was strong flavored and seasoned with mint, both of which suited me fine (the muttony taste was appropriate here). There must have been about a dozen dumplings, enough to fill a platter and again easily shared.

Although we didn't order it this time, they also offer hot or cold borscht (the hot is served in big bowls and has large chunks of potatoes and other veggies in it), pelmeni, blintzes (cheese or meat, red caviar or black), shish kabobs (lamb or chicken, sprinkled with pomegranete seeds) and a few more. The menu is not extensive but interesting.

One word of warning -- the service holds true to every other Russian restaurant I've been to (okay, not that many) -- slow and spotty. I think there were only two people working the entire restaurant (kitchen and front) so there were long waits between dishes. Fortunately we weren't in a hurry and the woman serving was kind and pleasant about the whole thing. At the end we asked for a pound of rugulach to go for breakfast. Instead, she gave us a bagful of assorted pastries (rugulach, cookies, etc.) on the house along with a couple of truffle candies. Don't be in a hurry and you'll have a good time.

Oh, and the bill was $28 for the two of us.

David "Zeb" Cook

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