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Cafe Rus and Hwang Hae Dumpling House

Stan | Jun 25, 200412:54 AM

There isn't much chow in downtown Long Beach. I was headed to King's Fish House, which is safe anyway, when I came across Cafe Rus. It's an un-slick Russian deli and restaurant in a sparsely furnished space in an old building with high ceilings, Russian stuff on the walls, and a very short menu. You want to like it. Unfortunately my lunch there wasn't so great. I had borscht, a cabbage pierozki, a poppy seed bear claw, and a bottle of carbonated Russian "lemonade". I've never actually had borscht before, so I have nothing to compare this to. It's beets and beef in a beet broth with dill. It was okay, I guess, but I found myself wanting more beet flavor. More dill would have helped too. The pierozki came with some bland horseradish and some ferocious mustard that went berzerk in my sinuses, and I ended up not really bothering to taste the pierozki because I was so fascinated by the mustard. The bear claw was stale and no match for the poppy seed pastries at the Jewish bakeries on Fairfax. The "lemonade" was okay but tasted nothing like lemonade. The flavor was familiar but I couldn't place it, like cream soda or something.

I also went to Hwang Hae Dumpling House in Artesia. This might be one of the Korean restaurants on Pioneer Blvd that Jonathan Gold dissed five years ago as being of no particular merit. If so then I'm afraid that I had a similar opinion. Although the sign outside says Dumpling House, and though they do have various dumpling dishes on the menu, the main emphasis is on standard Korean barbeque (prepared in the kitchen rather than at one's table). Wanting to preserve my health this once, I stuck with the boiled dumplings. The half-dozen huge dumplings came out on a plate with three panchan, all indifferent I'm afraid. The dumplings themselves weren't offensive, especially once I covered them in chili sauce. But their fillings, which I gather from the menu consist of ground kimchee and zucchini, did have a somewhat cat-food texture about them. I probably wouldn't order them again.

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