Thursday, December 24, 2009

Review: The Russian Tea Room, New York City, USA

Things have been a little quiet because I've been busy at work leading up to Christmas and now am on holiday in the USA. Expect a number of posts on the good, bad and the ugly.

Now we went to a concert at Carnegie Hall and so I just *had* to take a picture of the menu at the Russian Tea Room, however on approach the prices were not as ridiculous as I had originally expected. Obviously then it was time for a post theatre seating!

Word has it that since the Tea Room reopened in 2002 that the quality is lesser and the clientele more touristy but fie on them I had a good time (and besides I'm a tourist!) and the overly opulent interior is definitely worth a peek.

There was a post theatre prix frix menu at a very reasonable $55USD for 3 courses however it was missing many of the items I wanted to try so we went for a la carte.

Pol Roger NV Brut $55USD for a half bottle

A half bottle is enough for 2 to have a couple of hefty glasses of sparkling and a good size for a meal such as this.

The champagne is a soft bready sparkling Pinot/Chardonnay/Meunier classic of the region, what I love about Pol Roger is the soft fine mousse, far finer than many champagne houses.

There is a choice of breads included with the meal, this is a dark pumpernickel, done so much better in the US than at home.

Goat Cheese and Wild Mushroom Blinchik $18USD

Caramelised onion, mild goat cheese, wild mushrooms and rich duck ribbons in a classic wholegrain crepe. Melt in your mouth and just delightful in the cold.

Caviar Tasting Plate $28USD

I could hardly come to the Russian Tea Room and not have caviar! Done in a very classic style with blini, creme fraiche, chopped egg and red onion. I am a little disappointed that they are all red caviar types (trout, salmon and white fish) which are quite common at home but nonetheless this is a very solid example of the classic Russian appetiser.

Somehow I forgot to take a picture of the red, given the meats we were looking for a softer red and the Pinots and such were uninspiring so we went for a solid but not excellent Argentinian Malbec at $18USD a glass.

Duck $38USD

Well the naming of the dish was a bit uninspiring but the dish itself wasn't. Perfect cooked moist duck breast served in an orange anise reduction with plump raisins, enoki mushrooms and a 'beluga' lentil salad. Rich and sweet the sides were a perfect marriage with the rich fatty duck, offset by the lightness of the lentils.

Kobe Tasting Perigord $48USD

Now I don't understand how they can have "American Kobe" but perhaps the term Wagyu is tainted in the US. The beef was done 2 ways and both served with a light sauce "perigeux" a primarily truffle based sauce with an earthy tang that accompanies this extravagant ingredient. The tempura style onion rings were light and not at all oily, other sides included cauliflower gratin and baby carrots. A very solid dish but potentially a little rich at $48USD when you consider the beef we get at home.

Cherry and Cheese Blintz $18USD

Now if there's one thing I like about Eastern European cuisine over... well just about anything really (though the dumplings certainly are worth a mention) it's cherry and cheese desserts, whether they're Hungarian cottage cheese dumplings, Czech cherry strudels or these Russian blintzes.

Soft crepes are filled with heady fillings of sour cherry in one and a soft whipped cream cheese in the other, milder than a neufchatel and reminiscent of a marscapone but I was unable to determine the cheese used. Individually these crepes are beautiful, with a small amount from each they are table thumping, eye rolling, mouth porn. After a 3 course meal however one serve shared between two was more than enough.

Espresso $8USD

Definitely better than the ubiquitous Starbucks (I mean honestly I have not been able to stand on a street in NYC without at least one Starbucks being visible) this espresso was nice, but $8 for a demitasse cup is pushing it, no matter how nice the silverware is.

If I wanted Russian souvenirs I'd be planning to buy them in Russia but nonetheless the case of Faberge eggs and Russian crystal vodka sets is worth a peak.

All in all a very solid meal, and more affordable than expected at $140USD a head including wines. The experience was worth the price tag, the surroundings are definitely worth the cost and the food was world class though possibly not mind blowing.

The service was what you would expect of a meal in this price range, though the bus boys were as useless as the waiters were excellent, but I think the same can be said of most US restaurants. I will put this down to the minimum wage laws uninspiring workers.

I would recommend if you are in New York trying the post theatre menu at an affordable ticket entry to an extravagant location, whether you spend more than this is really down to your tastes.

The Russian Tea Room
150 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
Phone: +1 (212) 581-7100

Formal dining atmosphere (dress appropriately)
Reservations recommended
Late dining options available including post theatre seating


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