The Russian Tea Room reminds me of my paternal grandparents. Once, when I was in high school, my family went to dinner there with them. The walls were covered in blood red, there was gold glinting off of every surface, and my grandmother ordered vodka the way that I had never seen it before – drunk straight,out of a martini glass with a pickled onion. We ordered chicken Kiev, filled with buttery, parsley flecked sauce and caviar served with a dollop of sour cream and tangy sourdough blinis.
My grandmother tried to get me to try some venison, but that was when I still thought of venison as Bambi.
The Russian Tea Room has since undergone changes. It closed, it reopened it was renovated and it has added weekday breakfast. At a recent press event, I was lucky enough to try the extravagant, expensive offerings.
The room is as I remember it – restored to grandeur instead of totally redone. Over the top in the best way possible – all red and green and gold for the holidays. Dramatic Tchaikovsky plays while servers in imperialist-style costumes silently pour mineral water and offer glasses of tea with marinated cherries, the way that Nikolas himself would have drunk it. The feel is glamorous and theatrical and a little Disneyland. In a word – it’s perfect. It’s exactly what you want from The Russian Tea Room. I can’t even imagine how glamorous it would be to come sit in one of the secluded banquette and eat caviar from your lover’s fingers at a midnight dinner date.
Soft boiled eggs, topped with salmon caviar and gold flecks. That’s right, gold flecks. Just in case you didn’t know that you were in the swankiest restaurant this side of the Odessa, this should remind you. The eggs themselves are lovely – soft but firm whites with thick, gooey yolks. The salmon eggs, briny but not salty, work well against the buttery yolk. They provide a bright pop of flavor that really mix up the textures and flavors. The accompanying sour cream and red onion are playful reminders of traditional caviar accompaniments. Though the blinis are well made, I did miss the crisp crunch of sourdough toast soldiers to dip into my egg yolk.
An excellently made frittata. Softly scrambled eggs with lightly crisp edges and an airy, almost custardy center. Soft, sweetly caramalized onions were threaded throughout, as were woodsy time and fresh parsley. Thickly cut bacon is crisp and smoky, echoing the smoky taste of the cheddar, rich and tangy in its longs, melted strands. The best part of this frittata may be the hunks of creamy red potatoes, soft and fluffy in some parts and toothsome and hearty in others. Who knows why this is Russian; all I know is that it is delicious.
The Russian Tea Room is a total trip. Is it more expensive than your college education? Sure. Do you have to get dressed up to go? Absolutely. Is it worth it for a special occasion treat that calls to mind the glamorous days of old NYC? Worth it and then some. As Ferris Bueller would say “If you have the means, I highly recommend it.”: And as my grandma would say”
Next time, get the vodka.
Will do, Grandma.
Disclaimer: My meal was paid for by the restaurant. I was not required to write about my experience, and my opinions are my own and unbiased.