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!

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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

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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…

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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.
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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

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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.

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Red Alert: Les 400 Coups in Montreal

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

Les 400 Coups Les 400 Coups, in Old Montreal, is one of Montreal’s best restaurants, and it specializes in local ingredients and seasonal cuisine. Red? Well, maybe this should just be an Orange Alert. None of this food is strictly Eastern European, but a few dishes certainly pinged my radar. They’re inspiring, as they’re made with ingredients typically found in Eastern Europe: trout paired with yogurt and beets, and arctic char served with sea-buckthorn and rye.

It’s been a slow time for bright, commie-red alerts, and it’s rare to see something in a restaurant of this caliber. I guess Daniel Boulud and his fellow three-Michelin-star chefs don’t often wake up thinking, “Let’s put a Beef Stroganoff on the menu today”. Or perhaps it’s just that Thomas Keller doesn’t give me a call when he adds a coulibiac to his tasting prix-fixe. So for now, let’s enjoy some French-Canadian, expertly prepared seafood…
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Restaurant Review: Taras Bulba

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!

Ukrainian Cuisine - Taras Bulba

Taras Bulba is a Ukrainian restaurant chain founded in 1999, with many branches in Moscow and Kiev. The SoHo outpost, however, opened much more recently (this W Broadway space was still occupied by Via dei Mille not so long ago). I actually remember eating in one of the Moscow joints on my way to or back from some Caucasian Adventure or other. Everything looked more or less the same, from the decor to the menu, with the added benefit that in Moscow they’re open 24/7 — can you remind me again which one’s supposed to be the city that never sleeps?

Time for our minute of culture. Taras Bulba, though it may sound like an insult in French, is really a novella by Nikolai Gogol, wherein a family of Zaporozhian Cossacks does Cossack things, including lots of warmongering. It was loosely adapted for film in 1962, with Yul Brynner in the title role. (Brynner was born in Vladivostok, incidentally). And korchma, the word printed on the awning and atop the menu, is not a schizophrenic owner’s second name for the restaurant; a “korchma” simply used to be a kind of tavern in Ukraine.

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Red Alert : M. Wells Steakhouse

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

In a Red Alert almost three years ago, I featured the rather ephemeral M. Wells Diner. After closing over one of those New York lease arguments everybody talks about for a month before forgetting all about it and moving on to the next piece of food gossip, the owners opened M. Wells Dinette at PS1, and more recently, M. Wells Steakhouse, both in Long Island City.

Discussing the Steakhouse outlet, “Orange Alert” may be more appropriate, since most of the dishes I’m going to talk about are somewhat (very) loosely connected to Eastern Europe.

M. Wells Steakhouse

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Edinburgh Restaurant Report: Yellow Bench

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.

Yellow Bench RestaurantScotland isn’t reknowned for its Eastern European food, and it takes some dedication to find restaurants from the other side of the Iron Curtain. Glasgow has U Jarka (“Polish and European cuisine, with the good old traditions”) and Cossachok (“Scotland’s first and only authentic Russian Restaurant which represents people from former USSR in cooking, culture, and hospitality”). But if you’re in Edinburgh these days, like I was during my family holiday trip, then Yellow Bench, a Polish hole-in-the-wall in Leith, might very well be your only option.

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