Russian Tea Room is one of the most iconic restaurant in NYC. I have always been curious about them, but didn’t really have had the chance to visit. I decided to take an advantage during the Winter Restaurant Week NYC, and try their Russian cuisine.
They were founded by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet in 1927, so they have been in business for over 80 years. In NYC, that alone speaks volume. It is said to be popular among actors, writers, and politicians. But I think it is currently more popular among people who go to see some performances at the Carnegie Hall. This restaurant was and still is used in some movies and TV shows, so maybe they get some of the fans as well. What I didn’t know was that Maddona used to work at the coat check before she found fame. Pretty interesting!
As we walked through the antique revolving doors under the red awnings, we were in awe of the beautiful décor.
I have only seen the inside on photos, but it was as stunning as I expected it to be, or more. It was all gold, red, and green. Everywhere I looked, it was like looking at art. The inside was quite large, and I believe for this reason, they had a work staff station in the mid way of the floor, so that they don’t have to constantly walking back and forth from the very front of the floor to the very back. This made the service faster and more efficient. Very clever.
We got to have one of the nice, big, plush red booth on the side. And when I say plush, I mean REALLY plush! It was so fluffy and soft, and comfortable. I liked their lighting with red ball ornaments (like Christmas ornaments) hung around the gold round light fixture. The light reflect on their gold ceiling, creating that luxurious atmosphere even more.
They gave us complimentary bread, which was really dense and good quality. It was not hot off the grill, but they had them ready at that service station in the middle of the restaurant. This made it easier and faster to get another bread if we wanted more (which we did). I prefer a hot bread right off the grill, but then again, I really appreciated their efficiency too.
Then, we moved on to the Winter Restaurant Week menu ($38/person for dinner). For the appetizer, we chose Goat Cheese and Wild Mushroom Blinchik, and Traditional Tea Room Red Borsht. The Blinchik was a crêpe filled with mixed mushrooms, goat cheese, melted onions and lingonberries. It was very soft, creamy, and tasty. The lingoberry sauce added nice flavor of sweetness and a bit of acidity. They had cherry tomatoes under the crêpe, which was interesting. They were refreshing and had nice contrast of texture and flavor to the crêpe.
The Borscht came with pickled red beets, seasonal vegetables and dill in a short rib broth served with a braised beef pirozhok. I somehow didn’t really expect much of this soup, but with one spoonful, I was pleasantly surprised. It was hot and very comforting. Beets and all the veggies were cooked until soft, which is how I like it. It was not super flavorful, but was a solid good soup.
I didn’t know what pirozhok was, and when it arrived with the soup, I still was not sure. After taking a couple of bite into it, we finally got it! It was a puff pastry with ground beef filling in the inside. It was almost like a little meat pie, and was pretty tasty! It was not oily, and the pastry was flaky and light, the meat was flavorful. We enjoyed this little guy.
For the main course, we chose Chicken à la Czar and Boeuf à la Stroganoff. The chicken dish came with sautéed free-range chicken breast with mixed roasted peppers and mushrooms in a light cream sauce over herb spätzle. It was bigger than expected, as we though anything and everything we get from such luxurious restaurant will be tiny, presented nicely on a huge plate. So, this was another pleasant surprise. The chicken was moist, veggies were seasoned nicely, but the carrot was a bit too hard. I wish if it was cooked a bit longer so that it would be softer. The cream sauce really flavorful, and the mashed potato had really nice herb flavor to it. Mushroom were really tasty as well.
The Stroganoff came with red wine braised beef short ribs with thick noodles tossed in a creamy mushroom and black truffle cream sauce. It was a smaller size and portion than the chicken, as expected. The beef was dense and juicy, cooked perfectly. The mushroom in cream sauce had a nice flavor. The black truffle sauce really made the dish, it brought out the flavor of the beef. The beef was tender and flaky, it was not an amazing dish, but it was nicely done.
Then the desserts! We had Traditional Cheesecake and Chocolate Mousse Cake. The Cheese cake was a vanilla cheesecake, really rich and dense. It was not soft like most others, but really firm. The raspberry sauce added nice flavor, and I enjoyed the hint of vanilla as well. It was small but with the density, it was filling. The Chocolate Mousse was creamy, very chocolate-y and not as dense. It had a large chocolate hazelnut “crunch” in the middle, which was more like the actual hazelnut coated in chocolate, but it was pretty tasty.
We also ordered cappuccino on top of the Restaurant Week Menu. It came out to be $8 per cup, which was expensive but I would say not surprising at a place like this. It was a nice, solid cup.
The wait staff were efficient, but not too friendly. The other staff (the ones who take away the plates, refill your water, give you extra bread, etc.) were nice and polite, they did great job keeping the table clean and made sure we were well taken care of. One thing to note, the bathroom is located downstairs. The stairs are located right by the entrance, before the hostess table. As soon as you go down stairs, you can see some beautiful Fabergé eggs, jewelry, and of course, nesting dolls on display. (They are actually for sale) Then there is the coat check where Madonna used to work at… the bathroom is all the way down the hall.
Overall, we did enjoy the experience very much, especially the atmosphere. At such iconic restaurant, I think everything is there to take in the beauty, history, décor, and ambiance more than the actual food itself. Being in that space alone was stunning experience. I might want to go back for an afternoon tea one day…
Russian Tea Room – 150 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019