Had a good Russian meal in brighton beach at varenichnaya, 3086 brighton 2nd street, 30 yards off the boardwalk. (718) 332-9797
it's a tiny place, very formica and probably does as much or more of a takeout business as eat-in. This is fine with me, because the other times I tried to eat in brighton beach I got stuck in restaurants which provided a big production for what should be in essence really simple food. they want to make you order at great length, watch a floorshow, and otherwise provide a test of endurance. entertaining once or twice, but not the kind of thing i make a standard stop on the five-borough food tour, or a staple restaurant for myself.
the one-page menu is straighforward with a few mysteries: 4 kinds of pelmenyi at 3.95 per serving (about 25 in a bowl), 7 kinds of vareniki (at 3.95-4.25 depending on the filling), blintzes for 1.00, and very hearty soups for 2.95. There are another 6 or 8 exotic items on the menu, i have no idea what they are. I look forward to getting back there and trying them: Khachapuri Puff, Samsa, Kytabi (meat or veg), Chebureki, Henkali, Pilau Uzbek style, Manti (meat or potatoes). And soups called Meat Solyanka and Harcho.
I had a simple meal of borshch (which was delicious, made with meat and topped with dill, like my grandmother's) and three kinds of vareniki with different stuffings. all of them tasted fresh and homemade (or locally made) to me. it's hard to call this kind of food "flavorful" because its nature is to be starchy, heavy, and buttery, but everything was very satisfying and left me smiling.
the next week i went back and tried a couple of the more mysterious items on the menu: Lagman a la Uzbekskii was a good, spicy veal soup, and Kytabi which was a kind of flat, fried ravioli thing, stuffed with meat or "greenery".
If you want a quick, cheap, no-ordeal, and different meal, while watching russian cable television, particularly good for bracing yourself on a cold afternoon, I suggest this place.