Review: Russian Samovar Restaurant and Piano Bar, New York City

By Jonathan Spira on 17 May 2018
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Enjoying Russian cuisine and culture doesn’t necessarily require a trip to Mother Russia. New York City has several excellent Russian restaurants, and one of them is the Russian Samovar.

The Samovar, a Russian water heating urn, literally means “self-cooker.” The restaurant was founded in 1986 by the Russian exile and poet Joseph Brodsky, who died in 1996 and whose poetry, with its poignant images of wandering and loss, won him two Pulitzer Prizes.

Appropriately enough, Samovar offers poetry readings, although none were during my mid-afternoon luncheon – slotted in between “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part 1” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part 2.

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It was almost immediately apparent that the Russian Samovar is a gathering place for not only Russian Bohemians for those who appreciate live music and a variety of flavored vodkas.

The restaurant’s menu divides a dinner into nine different categories, ranging from caviar, soups, salads, cold appetizers, hot appetizers, fish, poultry, meats, and desserts.

My luncheon companion and I were tempted to start with solyenka, a thick and spicy soup common to all areas of Russia and continue with the vinaigrette salad, which includes beets, carrots, pickles, beans, and potatoes. However, we opted for the assorted fish platter that included house-cured salmon with dill (gravlax style), smoked Atlantic salmon, and smoked butterfish. A garden salad was an excellent counterpoint. What we eventually did enjoy after was pelmeni Stroganoff, which we enjoyed with greatly. It was a thin dough wrapped around a beef filling in a delightful sour cream sauce.

To bring the meal to an appropriate and festive end, we both had a slice of Le Smettanik, a sour cream cake, and then black Russian tea served with the traditional cherry jam.

While we didn’t come across any Cossacks bursting into song we were entertained by a talented pianist playing a concert grand who could be convinced to play a selection of our choice.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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