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Friday, June 02, 2006

Russian Cuisineski? Gag me with a Spoonski!

New York City, as most people know, is one of the world's leading restaurant meccas, if not the top bannanas Foster.

What's more, as most people know, New York is home to a large population of Russian speakers, residing in the seaside region of Southern Brooklyn known as Brighton Beach.

It must be surprising, then, to learn that the New York Times, the city's leading arbiter of restaurant savoir-faire, lists only eleven restaurants serving Russian cuisine, and one of them is closed. Of the ten that are open, only two have been reviewed by the Times and only three have received reviews from Times readers. Both of the restaurants reviewed by the Times received only two stars out of four, and one of them is a hybrid restaurant serving both Russian and New American cuisine, focussing on caviar on the Russian side rather than actual cuisine.

Twice as many African restaurants are listed than Russian, three times as many Korean restaurants are listed and five times more Vietnamese.

This is what some commenters from Menupages had to say about Firebird, the most significant "Russian" restaurant in the City according to the Times (not a single Times reader, the world's most famous "foodies," commented on the place):

  • Went with my Russian girlfriend. We were disapointed in the quality of the food. The food was very basic, certainly not worth the price. The service was nice. The high point of the evening was the honey vodka. Unfortunately, the food did not live up to our hopes and expectations.
  • One has to understand that high-end Russian food is really French in its origin. That is why acclaimed Russian restaurants like Petrosian in NYC or Maxim's in Paris are French first and Russian only in their choices of caviar, etc... And one of the reasons why Firebird fails to impress people who know and appreciate food is because it tries to pass a more ethnic type of food for high-end cuisine. Nothing wrong with ethnic food mind you, it can be delicious and rewarding, but you better off getting it in a Russian restaurant that aspires to that type of cuisine. As for the $30 borscht, my grandma can cook one just as good, and it's free!
  • The place is fancy but the food is very basic and nothing special. It's not worth the money and there are better places to go for russian food.
  • There are a few very good Russian restaurants in the NYC area but this is not one them. The food is disappointing, the prices are very high and the decor is high kitsch.
In other words, yuck! Russian cuisine (if, as one commenter above notes, it even can be said to really exist, as opposed to being French or Ukrainian or Georgian) is like Russian athletics which is like Russia itself: unreformed, unrepentant and therefore an unmitigated failure.

And apparently, Russians like it that way just fine. How much longer they'll have the luxury of doing so is anybody's depressing guess.


Natalia said...

Everyone knows that good Russian food is not readily found in New York... And the stereotypes are, well, *charming*

- Unrepentant Ukrainian.

Anonymous said...

You obviously don't have any Russian friends or you would have experienced Russian cuisine at their home and discovered that it is delicious!