Everywhere we turn these days, it seems like Russian culinary culture is gaining a foothold in New York City, outside the boundaries of Brighton Beach.This past spring, plans were announced for neighbouring Russian eateries on 57th Street: Moscow 57, from the daughter of a longtime Russian Tea Room owner, and Cafe Pushkin, an offshoot of a Moscow-based restaurant that’s popular with oligarchs, Eater reported.
And another upscale Russian restaurant, Onegin, from the owners of a Coney Island nightclub and restaurant, has just opened for business in the West Village.
We asked Sasha Poline, part owner of Russia-based restaurant group Ginza Project and the force behind posh Russian Flatiron eatery Mari Vanna, about the boom in Baltic eateries.
“Right now, there isn’t much competition for Russian restaurants,” he said. “People see Mari Vanna’s sucess and think that if they open a Russian restaurant, it will be the same.”
Poline, who is in the process of opening a pair of restaurants at the Dream Hotel in midtown, also said that there was a growing demand in the Russian community for good Russian restaurants outside of Brooklyn.
“Russian food wasn’t introduced in New York in the right way,” he added. “Before us, there were a couple of Russian restaurants, but they were Soviet-era. The new restaurants are more like Russia today.”
Photo: Russian Standard Vodka
Russian vodka is also making a splash in America. Russian Standard, the premium vodka of Russia and a popular brand in Europe, is making a major push in the U.S. and hopes to compete for bar shelf space with Absolut and Grey Goose.
“People have become much more aware of Europe, but Russia has always been more mysterious and different,” said Sumindi Peiris, VP of Marketing for Russian Standard. “There’s a lot of interest in that culture, and an element people are very open to. People are truly intrigued and really embracing the quality and authenticity of this vodka.”
The forces behind Cafe Pushkin also put an emphasis on the “authentic” Russian experience.
According to Russia Beyond the Headlines, which spoke with owner Andre Dellos in August:
The opening of the brasseries, scheduled for this winter, will be a litmus test of public taste. “There are certainly no analogues to what we have conceived in New York; we have seen all the Russian restaurants here,” Dellos said. He divides Russian restaurants in America into two types: holes-in-the-wall opened by émigrés and Russian restaurants opened by Americans that have nothing to do with Russian cuisine.
“Russian restaurateurs abroad have repeated the fate of Russian ballet,” said Dellos. “Having lost their ties with Russia, they changed irrevocably. Today we offer the West genuine, classical Russian recipes.”
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