Paris Restaurant Report: Resto Ukraine

In addition to my New York restaurant reviews, I’d like to share with you my thoughts on random Eastern European restaurants I visit during my various trips. These posts may not always have the depth of my traditional reviews, so I won’t provide any ratings. I’m also unlikely to write about a place if it’s not noteworthy in some capacity.

Resto Ukraine

Once upon a time during the Cold War, Paris had a fair number of Russian restaurants, selling the image of an early-20th century White Russia gorging on caviar and vodka while singing and dancing. The collapse of the U.S.S.R., however, was followed by a progressive loss of interest in (and a brutal update on the reality of) Russian culture, and most of these restaurants eventually closed. At the same time, the mass exodus from Eastern Europe to the West brought a variety of nationalities to Paris and elsewhere. Which is probably how we end up today with a place like Resto Ukraine, a restaurant in the 9th arrondissement, with a Ukrainian chef and an Uzbek waiter.

Continue reading

The Best and Worst Restaurants of 2014

I can’t believe I reviewed only six restaurants this year! That’s four less than last year, even though I still feel like I spent all my time eating Eastern European food. However, I can comfort myself by saying that my reviews are getting more thorough, and by looking at all of the many shorter restaurant reports and Red Alerts.

As a reminder, I rate the food on a scale from 0 to 10, and eateries are grouped into three categories: Recommended (rating > 6), Not worth a special visit (rating between 5 and 6), and Avoid (rating < 5). But this year, all the restaurants I’ve visited scored above 6! No disasters like Nasha Rasha (which is now closed, by the way), so I’m definitely not complaining.

The Best and Worst Restaurants of 2014

Drawing by G. Valk

Continue reading

Restaurant Review: Hospoda, 2nd Incarnation

A note about my restaurant reviews: New York City counts many Eastern European restaurants scattered across the five boroughs, most of them ignored by restaurant critics and diners alike. I intend to visit as many as I can and report!

Czech Cuisine - HospodaWhen I reviewed Hospoda over three years ago, it got the best rating I ever gave on this blog. Unfortunately, the high quality of the food wasn’t enough to draw crowds, and the restaurant closed its doors last spring. It could have been the strange combination of fine dining, beer, and lack of white tablecloths. Or maybe the less than ideal location on a quiet street on the Upper East Side. But I think the most likely cause is that the phrase “Czech cuisine” conjures in New Yorkers minds’ images of afternoons in the boroughs at beer gardens, eating greasy sausages or bad goulash with their serial pitchers of brew.

Now Hospoda, still a part of Ambiente‘s Czech restaurant empire, has re-opened with a new model that meshes more closely with the local low standards. Chichi potato variations and obscure beef oyster blades are out; sausages and burgers are in. Will the beer grub have New York foaming at the mouth?

Czech Cuisine - Hospoda Continue reading

Restaurant Review: Old Tbilisi Garden

A note about my restaurant reviews: New York City counts many Eastern European restaurants scattered across the five boroughs, most of them ignored by restaurant critics and diners alike. I intend to visit as many as I can and report!

Red Alert! Greenwich Village is turning into a nest of Soviets! Only a few months after Ariana (the last restaurant I reviewed) set up shop on Houston Street, Old Tbilisi Garden opened its doors on Bleecker Street in the exact same block. (Not to mention the Langos Truck that’s been corrupting NYU youth, one greasy flat bread at a time…)

Old Tbilisi Garden has a pedigree that shouldn’t be totally new to my readers. Apparently, part of the team is comprised of none other than the former owners of Tbilisi in Brooklyn, which I reviewed here a few years ago. After selling their old restaurant and spending some time in the kitchen at Oda House, they moved to their new digs in July.

Georgian Cuisine - Old Tbilisi Garden Continue reading

Restaurant Review: Toné Café

A note about my restaurant reviews: New York City counts many Eastern European restaurants scattered across the five boroughs, most of them ignored by restaurant critics and diners alike. I intend to visit as many as I can and report!

Do you remember Georgian Bread? At a time when Georgian restaurants in NYC were a rarity (no Pepela or Oda House back then), this Brighton Beach bakery turned out good khachapuri made from scratch. Fast forward a few years: the former owner has retired, and the bakery, under new ownership (“your new taste”, as the facade brags in approximate English), was extended to include a sit-down restaurant and garden next door. The place is now called Toné Café, after the tandoor (თონე / tone in Georgian) that takes pride of place in the middle of the kitchen.

With all the recent competition, does this forerunner of the New York khachapuri fad still top the podium of cheese bread goodness? Does the place still justify the trek to Brighton? Read on!

Toné Café Continue reading

Restaurant Review: Ariana

A note about my restaurant reviews: New York City counts many Eastern European restaurants scattered across the five boroughs, most of them ignored by restaurant critics and diners alike. I intend to visit as many as I can and report!

Ariana, in Greenwich Village, is the brain child of Russian singer Ariana Grinblat. According to the web site, Ariana “has decided it’s time to update Russian cuisine in America”, and we at Food Perestroika couldn’t agree more. With the help of Mari Vanna alum Vitaliy Kovalev “from St. Petersburg” (presumably Russia, not Florida), she’s “looking to shock your senses, and redefine what you thought you knew about Russian food”. Of course we’ve heard that song before, everywhere from nearby Groupon-magnet Onegin claiming to serve “Russian fusion” to the short-lived midtown Brasserie Pushkin with its world champion chef and pricey menu. Will our senses be shocked in a good way this time around, or will we end up eating the same old shoe-sole Stroganoff and overcooked cabbage rolls? Read on to find out!

Russian Cuisine - Ariana

Continue reading

Restaurant Review: Kebeer

A note about my restaurant reviews: New York City counts many Eastern European restaurants scattered across the five boroughs, most of them ignored by restaurant critics and diners alike. I intend to visit as many as I can and report!

Uzbek Cuisine - KebeerIf you go to Brighton Beach with any regularity, you’ve probably passed by Kebeer Draft Bar and Grill a dozen times. Its location at the corner of Brighton Beach Ave and Coney Island Ave is hard to miss, and yet if you’re like me, you probably never paid much attention to it. Maybe because from the outside, Kebeer tries pretty hard to pose as a burger joint. One side of the storefront reads “Burger Shop”, and there are pictures of hamburgers all over the place. The menu boards outside advertise burgers and hot dogs. And beer, the place’s other specialty. Hamburgers in Brighton Beach, the neighborhood where people don’t understand how meat can be “rare” if it’s available on the menu every day. How many pints of beer do you need to drink in order to eat their shoe-sole beef patties, you might wonder…

Uzbek Cuisine - KebeerNow, prepare yourself for a shocking revelation: Kebeer is really…

Continue reading

Red Alert: Veal Cheek Goulash at Seäsonal

Red Alert! Random Eastern European dishes are invading our streets and restaurants! Should you duck and cover, or welcome the enemy?

Seäsonal Restaurant & Weinbar, in Midtown West, is an Austrian restaurant. It is not owned by Kurt Gutenbrunner — an important detail, since New York City counts 10 or fewer Austrian eateries, and the KG-NY Group owns three of the most famous among them.

Seäsonal’s web site provides a good idea of their philosophy, which is more than many places that I’ve reviewed on this blog can claim:

Wolfgang Ban and Eduard Frauneder have perfected their own modern take on Austrian cuisine – one which combines traditional techniques, contemporary innovations, and updates to some of their favorite childhood dishes.

Austrian Cuisine - Seasonal - Veal Cheek GoulashWhat makes the place Red-Alert-worthy is the goulash, of course. A dish hailing from neighboring Hungary but transformed into something quite different (and closer to a pörkölt) in Austria.
Continue reading

Restaurant Report: Currywurst in New York

Now that spring is here, you know that sooner or later you’ll find yourself in a beer hall of some kind. And after the first pint, you’ll inevitably want to grab a bite, if only to make yourself thirsty enough for the next round. Currywurst is exactly what you need. It goes great with beer, and the spicy sausage together with salty fries will make you long for another mug.

I’ve found four German joints in New York that feature currywurst on their menus. This post won’t really have restaurant reviews, since I’m only focusing on that one dish. All of these establishments are indoors, but what better way to spend a hot summer afternoon than inside an air-conditioned beer hall?

First, a brief history of the currywurst…

Currywurst - Wechsler's

Continue reading

Red Alert: Petrossian

Red Alert! Random Eastern European dishes are invading our streets and restaurants! Should you duck and cover, or welcome the enemy?

PetrossianPetrossian, just a block south of Central Park in Midtown, is a strange beast. Contrary to what many people might think, it’s really not a Russian restaurant. It’s an “expensive ingredient” restaurant. And yet there’s a Russian connection. Kind of. Armenian, rather. Sort of.

Continue reading