Visions of hot borscht led me to Cafe Levonya a couple weeks ago for what I thought would be the inexpensive, casual meal I've come to love there. Turns out over the summer the place remodeled. It's gone from a store with a restuarant crammed in, to a restaurant with a shelf of imported goodies in the corner. The dining area is now formal and walled off from what used to be the deli counter. It's a pretty space but the prices and new menu selections now reflect the upscale decor (more items in the $15-$19 range).
You can still get some of the basics from before (pickled herring, pelmeni, borscht, basturma salad) but a number of more elaborate entrees like salmon in pomegranite sauce have been added.
We nearly left since we weren't planning on splurging, but inertia got the better of us--and it's a good thing. The waitress said the same chef is in the kitchen (Levon), but he seems a little more inspired.
Blintz choices no longer include the reasonable salmon roe plate (caviar of any kind starts a $18), so we got the smoked salmon blintzes ($9). The blintzes were superb, tender, delicate, not a single crusty dried out edge. Much better than I've had there in the past.
The bread basket now comes with homemade dill pickles and pickled green tomatoes -- both mild and deliciously crisp. If felt like eating homegrown pickled veggies right out of grandma's mason jars.
We tried the summer dolma, which was enormous portion of stuffed eggplant, stuffed whole red pepper, and some other stuffed veggie I've forgotten. The ground beef and rice stuffing looked like any homey, plain, meat-loafy stuff, but looks deceive. They spike it with tart green apple that makes the whole heavy thing just sing. Never have I been that excited about ground beef.
Veggie borscht is still good -- how can anything be bad once you swirl sour cream into it?
Never cared for the desserts they truck in from NYC (and unfortunately it doesn't look like they upgraded them) and the rugelach is awful (tastes of fridge).
All in all, it seems like they're cooking better, presenting more nicely, and I'll definitely go back to try some of the other new or revamped dishes.