P H O T O G R A P H B Y F R A N C E S C O T O N E L L I
from russia with love
TASTES OF RUSSIAN OPULENCE GO FROM THE “SIBERIA” OF NEW YORK’S RESTAURANTSCENE TO SOUGHT-AFTER EATERIES SERVING MODERN FARE.
BY MATTHEW WEXLER
f there is a conclusion to be drawn from the bar-rage of Russian eateries taking Manhattan bystorm, it is that opulence takes many forms. Theexquisite carvings and François Boucher painting
Vulcan Presenting Venus with Arms for Aeneas
at Brasserie Pushkin’s aristocratic
, The Russian Tea Room’s infamous red and golddining room, or the museum-worthy collection of costumes from the original 1910 Ballets Russes at Firebird—these and other establishments are set-ting the stage for immerse culinary experiencesthat pay homage to centuries past while keeping a keen eye on current dining trends. Jacob Ryvkin, general manager of Onegin(named after the central character in AlexanderPushkin’s famous 1833 novel,
),says the new openings are sustainable, in part,due to second- and third-generation Russian Americans moving out of the old BrightonBeach neighborhood and into Manhattan.“Stereotypes have changed about our culture,”says Ryvkin, whose upscale eatery features Alexander Pushkin’s scribbles and sketchesadorning the walls. “We’re peaking in fashionand food and even taking over soccer teams.”(Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev recentlypurchased a controlling stake of Monaco’s soc-cer club for a reported $130 million.)Peaking perhaps, but the history of hauteRussian cuisine in New York City dates back tothe opening of The Russian Tea Room in 1927by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet.Since then it has been a gathering place for art-ists and politicians as well as throngs of New York visitors who flock to the second-floorCzarist wonderland complete with a 15-foot revolving bear-shaped aquarium and a towering gold tree decked with glass eggs. “The quality,scope, art, and history of The Russian Tea Roomis unsurpassed,” says vice president Ken Biberaj.“Quite simply, the room glows.” But the restau-rant has evolved with the times: While you canstill splurge on an ounce of Golden CaspianOsetra caviar for $295, there are prix-fixeoptions at both lunch and dinner as well as a petite steak menu. “We’ve always striven to be a second home for our guests,” reflects Biberaj,“a symbol of Russian democracy from the1920s to today.”For Ellen Kaye, daughter of former Russian Tea Room owners Faith Stewart-Gordon andSidney Kaye, growing up in The Russian Team Room meant spending time withthe likes of Zero Mostel, Uta Hagen,and Sammy Cahn (who insisted pick-les be placed on the table immediatelyupon arrival) while also gaining a broader understanding of the
MOOD OF FOOD
Hazelnut meringuedome fromBrasserie Pushkin.
continued on page 90