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Russian Tea Room Review

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Russian Tea Room Review

NYGJ | Jan 11, 2008 10:08 AM

I have not seen too many recent reviews of the Russian Tea Room so here goes...

I have only heard stories about the Russian Tea Room, mostly bad ones that involved the campiness of the place and the tourists who frequented it. It was the kind of restaurant that I imagined on the same plane of existence with the Rainbow Room or Tavern on the Green. Expensive, unnecessarily ostentatious, and mediocre food worthy of the palettes of visiting mid-westerners. So a few nights ago my girlfriend brought me there for a dinner knowing that I have a nostalgic place in my heart for these types of "New York City" restaurants.

We walked into an eerily quiet place after being greeted by a doorman who appeared to be doubling as one of the Tsar's royal guards. The first thing that hits you here is the decor, bold green walls accented with gold foil scroll work, half round red leather banquets, and various paintings adorned in gilded frames that must mean something important to the history of Russia (at least that's what I would like to think). Already my suspicions were confirmed "no patrons, coat check, over the top decorations; yep this place is not going to be good". It came as a complete shock once the food started to arrive. First we had the Borscht; bright red, meaty, sweet, followed by a slightly vinegary taste. I would have eaten the whole thing but I am no fan of beets or most red foods. This was followed by a smoked fish and caviar sampler that were all wonderful except for the tuna which tasted like canned tuna fish with caviar on top of it to dude it up. The others were great and really really smokey. For entree's I had the lamb tenderloins served with a lamb sausage atop a bed of broccoli rabe and tomatoes and parsnip comfit thing. My date had the venison (seasonal dish) with some other things I can't remember. I got to say we were both impressed with the dinners, if anything the price might have been a little high (somewhere around 40 dollars a dish), but given the atmosphere I don't mind this too much, you go there to drop money, not to be thrifty. The presentation and ingredients didn't match the place, they almost seemed like dishes you would find in a West Village or Tribeca eatery (think Blue Hill or Babbo). Finally we both ended the evening with the tea service. The service along with the sommelier were both excellent, we had a nice Russian waiter who took the time to explain each dish, explain the history of the restaurant, and take our picture there. Sounds cheesy I know but sometimes that's what you want and the food was way above my expectations. Overall I would rate Russian Tea Room with 7.5 out of 10.

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