New York is a natural place for a Russian restaurant because there’s such a big population from that area of the world. So, just like the adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” Mr. X and I figured, “When in New York City, do as the residents of Brighton Beach do,” and head to an eatery Alexander Pushkin would be proud of!
We chose the Greenwich Village-situated, new-ish Onegin, which, as a matter of fact, features portraits of that very author on their ceiling, as the eatery is named for one of his most famous title characters. (If you have time, please look it all up. It’s very interesting reading.)
Speaking of reading, right off the bat, I loved that their menus are in book form! They’re bound, and have pages and illustrations straight out of the 1800s. Each page is a new “chapter,” and I was really engrossed in it.
The décor is of the opulent bent, as well, and most of the staff is Russian, which lends an air of authenticity to everything. It’s an upscale place, but with club music (though, not as loud, thank goodness,) which makes it as hip as it is classy.
We went early on a Sunday evening, which felt like the perfect, cozy time to be there. We arrived in time to claim a cushy corner table, with a pillowed banquette. It was perfect for us because we were able to watch the Village passers-by out the picture window in one direction, while feeling we were in a Russian palace when we directed our gaze into the dining room.
The bar is beautiful and known for their many vodkas (what else?,) and when it came to our drink order, Serge, our able waiter, said, “ It’s decided for you—vodka!!!” As many of you know, I intensely dislike the taste of all alcohol, but Mr. X gamely tried five of them! (They came in petite glasses, so no worries there. And he wasn’t driving, so no worries there, either.) He chose the vodkas with fun, fruity flavors, though Onegin’s huge list includes ones with horseradish!!!
We ate a lot of food and loved most everything. We began with the absolutely delicious, perfectly-seasoned Grilled Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail, and moved on to the Three Cheese Salad, which Mr. X did not want to relinquish to me! It featured four interesting kinds of greens and chunks of three cheeses in a light, creamy dressing. Mr. X said of it, “It’s like there are extra tastes!”
By the time we finished the fabulous, healthful-tasting Porcini Mushroom and Barley Soup, that also has chunks of potato and comes with a classy side dish of sour cream, we were full. We were really regretting that we had ordered entrees because we knew we couldn’t do them justice at that point.
But the absolute pièce de résistance, hands-down winner, not-to-be-missed dish is the Pan Fried Potatoes With Wild Mushrooms!!! OMG! I had been walking around taking photos, and when I got back to the table, I was shocked to see Mr. X scarfing something new that I hadn’t even seen be delivered to us. It was the potatoes and he said he couldn’t help himself. I joined him, and immediately understood what he meant. It’s one of the single best food items I’ve ever tasted in my entire life!!! (My mouth is watering for them right now, as a matter of fact, but alas, I’m back home in L.A.)
By the end of them, we seriously couldn’t take another bite; they were so rich. We had already eaten a full meal with all those hearty appetizers, so I sadly cannot tell you about the entrees. There were several we had our eyes on, and Serge suggested the more Russian representatives, (like Chicken Kiev,) but we just rested until we were able to try a couple of light desserts. (You know that I can always find room for that course, don’t you?)
I mean it when I say “light”; Mr. X had just sorbet with berries and said it was the perfect ending. I tried the “Russian cheesecake,” which is not cheesecake at all! It’s three mini-cakes that are more like cheesy pancakes. They’re served with tiny dishes of honey, evaporated milk, and jam. I actually wound-up taking them home for breakfast the next day, for which they were perfect.
There was an interesting end to the meal for me. The beverage menu said, “Tea Service.” When I asked the lovely manager, Noelle, if that was indeed an afternoon tea they served during the day, she said that it was just a pot of tea, but done totally differently from just an end-of-meal cuppa. So I just had to experience it f or myself.
First, they bring you a box of raw teas in lit-up plastic disks, with colorful descriptions of them in the top of the box. You choose the one you want, and then it comes in a petite pot on a tray with lemon slices, honey, jam, raw sugar cubes, and two beautiful tall tea glasses with long spoons. It’s pretty impressive and makes drinking tea more special than the norm.
The tea service was the perfect end to our lovely winter evening at Onegin. We left there practically singing Ochi Tchornya! (Well, I’m sure we would have, anyway, if we knew the words! Maybe Serge can help us with that on our next visit.)
391 Sixth Avenue, New York 212-924-8001 www.oneginnyc.com