I feel like I spent all my dinners out eating in Eastern European and other post-Soviet restaurants this year! As is now the tradition, here’s a summary of the places I reviewed, rated on a scale from 0 to 10, and grouped into three categories: recommended (rating > 6), not worth a special visit (rating between 5 and 6), and avoid (rating < 5). While I usually mention decor and service in my posts, only the food is being graded.
Drawing by G. Valk
2013 was the year of the Manhattan restaurants. Call me lazy, but I figured I might as well review some of the eateries closer to home before venturing too often to Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay. The conclusion is that they tend to be better than their Brooklyn neighbors (with one exception that’s so blatant that it can only confirm the rule). This doesn’t really come as a surprise: a restaurant can’t hope to survive long among more discerning diners if it’s got average food and poor service, especially when there are a dozen other joints within a one-block radius. Not that Outer Borough restaurants can’t rate well — look at #1 Uzbek Palace. Continue reading →
I wish you all happy holidays! I’m leaving for a 10-day trip to Scotland — no Eastern Europe this time, and even my prospects for a Russian restaurant look very slim. But if you’re still looking for ideas for your dinner parties, or you want to use your time off to try some of my more time-consuming recipes, here are some recommendations from my 2013 posts…
Many of you have probably noticed by now that this is a Russian food blog. But it never hurts to state the obvious once in a while. And to drive my point home, I just bought russianfoodblog.com (note to Google: it spells Russian food blog).
Ingredient Matcher is a new web site (and app) that offers to compare a list of ingredients you already have to its recipe database, in order to figure out what you can cook for dinner without having to go to the store. It’s so new, in fact, that it hasn’t even officially launched yet.
While I would have a lot to say about offering recipes based on user inputs, what initially caught my attention was a series of contests that they recently started. In an attempt to gather recipes for the national dishes of all the countries in the world, the creators have been inviting food bloggers and other home cooks to submit their dishes for the illustrious title of Country Chef, plus some more material prizes.
That’s right, today is National Caviar Day. Once upon a time, New York City bars gave free caviar to their customers to keep them thirsty. Nowadays, of course, you’re unlikely to see restaurants handing over free spoonfuls of the black gold. Not even to mark today’s celebration (you can always try to persuade them; you never know…).
When I started this blog over two years ago, I never took the time to write a mission statement. So I’ll kick off 2013 by fixing this. Here is the Food Perestroika manifesto! I’m also adding it to my About page.
The word perestroika may be forever associated with Mikhail Gorbachev’s reformation movement in the late eighties, but in Russian, it simply means reconstruction. To understand what it is that needs to be rebuilt, I suggest we start with a brief look at culinary history in the former Eastern Bloc.
Just like last year, here’s a summary of the restaurants I reviewed in 2012, grouped into two categories: recommended (rating > 6), and not worth a special visit (rating between 5 and 6). As a reminder, I usually mention decor and service in my posts, but only the food is being rated. Luckily, no establishment made it to the third category (avoid, rating < 5). My ratings, especially below the 7 mark, are generous — I’m sure most people would feel that there’s no point spending over an hour on the subway to eat somewhat average food, when you can get so much better in so many closer places in the city.
Unlike most Best of/Worst of NYC lists coming out these days, which concentrate on places that opened or were trendy this year, I just list places that I happened to visit. A few of them did open in 2012, but it’s not that important.
You may notice that I reviewed significantly less restaurants this year, partly because my reviews became more thorough and required more visits, and partly because the 2011 round-up also included two months of 2010 reviews. I also started the year with two restaurant reports from Paris: La Maison Géorgienne and Boukhara. To make matters worse, Dacha has already closed, leaving many later customers with an aftertaste of bad service, watered-down vodka shots, and non-honored coupons.