Location: 256 West 52nd Street (At 8th Avenue) New York, NY 10019
Best Dish: Zharkoe is a hearty bread bowl filled with tender beef stew. It was delicious and filling. The bread was fresh and flaky and the stew savory and succulent.
Overall: Good food with a relaxed vibe. Russian Samovar is located next to all of the hottest Broadway shows. You should stop by for a pre or post theater meal.
Birthed in the 80’s Samovar has the look and feel of an old-school bar. Classically quilted vinyl booths and the sounds of live music adds to the restaurant’s decor. Russian Samovar is also home to a piano bar, which occasionally employs a lounge singer. The eatery has had a decorated past as a popular place among artists. The creative types who have visited this restaurant over the years include world-renowned dancers, poets, and writers of Russian descent. All who have found comfort in these surroundings came for a good meal of Homestyle Russian cuisine. The original owner Joseph Brodsky, was a Nobel Prize-winning poet. His collections of photos and memorabilia are sprinkled throughout the space, creating an unintentional shrine of sorts. Russian Samovar has quite a few tasty dishes brewing in their kitchen.
Pelmeni is Russia’s version of dumplings. The dough is a simple mixture of flour and water that is wrapped around a savory filling of ground veal and chicken. While the dumplings were tasty, they just needed a little more seasoning, thankfully they come with a helping of sour cream which adds creaminess and much-needed flavor. The sour cream gave this dish the kick it needed.
Mango and succulent shrimp are mixed and mashed into silken bits of tasty avocado for this fresh salad. The salad was simple and delicious. The Avocado Salad is served inside of an empty avocado. It was so good, we wanted to scrape the bottom of the avocado for more.
The skin on the fish was cooked crispy and the flesh soft and buttery served with an assortment of fresh grilled veggies. The fish was well prepared, seasoned perfectly and very tasty.
For this dish, an Angus beef stew is served in a crispy bread bowl. The flavors are outstanding; this a hearty meal that is ideal for the season. The stew is warm and filling and the bread is crisp on the outside but soft inside. The best part is right in the center where the bread has soaked up most of the broth. Somehow the bread is able to hold its own against the stew and you get a deliciously crisp drool-inducing bite.
We finished our dinner with the Apple Strudel. The dessert was a bit disappointing. The outer crust was room temperature but the inside was piping hot. It just needed more consistency and flavor to win us over. The pastry came with a side of vanilla ice cream which was enjoyable.
Kenwood Pinot Noir & Pomegranate Martini
The pinot was excellent, it held a fruity aroma with some spicy notes, it paired well with the beef stew. Russian Samovar has 26 flavored vodkas prepared in-house, including ginger, horseradish, lemon and cranberry. You can order any flavor in shot form or by the glass. We chose to sample their pomegranate martini, which was robust and intense.
In addition to being founded by a Nobel prize winner, the restaurant that is now Russian Samovar was once a favorite bar of Frank Sinatra. In his era, it was known as Jilly’s Saloon and in the 60’s it was the place to be. While we can’t be certain when the party ended we can attest to a very different experience. The staff is friendly enough and the food is palatable.
Russian Samovar Restaurant & Piano Bar Opening Hours: Monday 5:00pm-2:00am; Tuesday – Thursday 12:00pm-2:00am;
Friday – Sunday 12:00pm-4:00am. The kitchen closes 12:00am Sunday-Thursday and 1:00am Friday and Saturday.