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Restaurants & Bars

St. Louis Russian - Dvin

kbear | May 3, 200205:31 PM

In February, my eating club went to Dvin, a Russian/Armenian/Greek place. Although it is hard to find, it was well worth the search. Eleven intrepid eaters showed up. I really need to learn to count better- I thought we were having just 6! Fortunately, the restaurant nicely accommodated us, which wasn't all that difficult, considering we were their only customers for the course of the evening. Dvin does not have a liquor license, so we were forced to fetch our own. The other problem was that they only have six menus, so we had to share.

Several dips were sampled for appetizers. Hummus was average and the red pepper dip was just marinated red pepper slices, black olives and feta. The Armenian bean dip was slightly more interesting, a melange of red kidney beans, fried onion and olive oil, so finely ground that it was more like hummus. Regardless, everything was eaten.

A few opted for salads. The regular salad was ordered with no tomatoes. It was fairly plain, with shredded iceberg lettuce and a light dressing. The Russian salad was shared and marginally more interesting. Also, borscht was ordered. Now, most people consider borscht a yucky beet soup. I personally love beets. But in Dvin's borscht, they were barely evident. The broth was orangey, redolent of carrots, tomatoes and dill. Also, there were vast quantities of shredded cabbage floating within. Very tasty and I highly recommend, even for you beet-haters. The price was right, at $2.50 a bowl. I should also mention that Dvin's borscht is vegetarian.

We got less adventurous with the main courses. The only items ordered were: lamb kebabs, chicken kiev, giro, goulash and dolma. (Strange spellings are Dvin's, not mine). The dolma was highly rated, with ground beef rather than the usual lamb. The Eater declared the grape leaves, "very fresh-tasting". The goulash was enjoyed by at least three eaters. They claimed it was vastly improved with the side of sour cream they requested. Very heavy on the mushrooms, but nice. The giro was roundly booed, due to pre-sliced and warmed-up meat. Similarly, no one appreciated the chicken kiev. One Eater said before ordering that he had a childhood memory of his non-cooking mother making kiev by dumping canned mushroom soup on poorly fried chicken. He was hoping to improve on the memory. Once he tried the kiev, however, he said that his mother's was better. No one else who ordered it was terribly complimentary of it. In fairness, the waitress did recommend the lamb anything over the chicken or giros. The lamb was a REVELATION. Meaty, solid perfect cubes of lamb marinated in something really fantastic and then perfectly cooked - not tough, very tender, ever-so-slightly spicy and quite delicious.

All dishes were served with boiled then fried potatoes, cauliflower, carrots and broccoli, the last of which was great. Incongruously, a tablespoon of canned salsa (I suspect Pace), also came alongside. No one ordered dessert, which consisted of Baklava and something else that I forgot to write down.

Portions were not overwhelmingly large. The restaurant is decorated with the ubiquitous Matrushkas (spelling?) everywhere, and some nice framed art on the walls. The background music was French, which fit but weirdly. Service was quite good, considering there was one waitress, a nice young woman, and they didn't charge us for the glasses we used with wine. Also, service for 11 was not included in the bill. After dinner, the young woman explained that her mother did all the cooking, so we shouted for her to come out. She did and we all clapped and yelled all the nice Russian phrases we know. Mostly Das vidanya. Really, a fun evening!

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