4 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
For Shrink's birthday, Dudeman and I asked each other where we should take her. That it should be someplace in the Gramercy/Flatiron area was about as far as we got. It wasn't until later in the day as I was shooting through the subway tunnels home that Dudeman passed Nasha Rasha and declared "Here! This is where we should go!" When I got his message I was, to say, surprised. I did not envision Nasha Rasha as the kind of restaurant that my parents would be terribly psyched about eating at.
Nasha Rasha is, in a word, garish. A tacky parody of Glasnostian Sovietism. The base color of the interior is a deep rich red, murals of Gorbachev and others line the wall, there are hundreds of backlit vodka bottles, a giant hammer-and-sickle, a giant red star. When I walked in, the music was Eurofied, electronic versions of Western pop and was scream-across-the-table loud. The waitresses wear "traditional" Russian versions of the St. Pauli Girl dirndl outfits (I don't know what the Russians call it) and from the ceiling hang crystal chandeliers that would be happy in, if not the Czar's palace, then at least in his pied-a-terre. There's a large flat screen television playing a yule log video on a continuous loop. Then as if this wasn't all hilarious enough, after a short while, someone walked out into the middle of the dining area with an electric violin and started fiddling along with the pop music. It's so dark that the menus have reading lamps built into them. Naturally, this place was fun.
Nasha Rasha isn't just a Russian restaurant, it's also a vodka bar with a wide array of vodkas. Shit, just look at the pics I put up. If there's a vodka you want, odds are, it's on their wall somewhere (and there's also a vodka wall upstairs I didn't get a photo of). Dudeman ordered a Manhattan on the rocks. Shrink was not amused. "You're at a Russian restaurant and you're getting a Manhattan? Who does that?" "It's like I'm the CIA contact," he replied. "This way the defector will know me." As for me, I tried few of their numerous he vodka infusions. First, the salmon infusion, then the horseradish infusion, and finally, the bacon infusion. The salmon was mellow and tasted distinctly of smoked salmon. Zabar's would be proud. The horseradish was nose-clearingly strong and, aside from the fact that it was liquid and alcoholic, it would be hard to tell the difference between drinking a glass of this and shoving a spoonful of actual horseradish down into your mouth. As for the bacon, it was just like drinking bacon. And who doesn't like bacon? My favorite, though, had to be the salmon.
Russian's have a reputation for being big drinkers. Maybe this is why the appetizers here were so large. By which I mean, they were HUGE. One appetizer would have been enough for all three of us to split. But being ignorant of this, we got three. I orderd the Mushroom Stroganoff, sauteed wild mushrooms in a creamy, cheesy sauce served in a bread bowl so big that you could crawl in and take a nap. It was fantastic, but no normal human could eat the whole thing without passing out. Shrink ordered the Pan Fried Potatoes with Wild Mushrooms. Basically, this dish was french-fry-like potatoes and sauteed mushrooms. The Rents loved it. I wasn't too impressed. It was the kind of simple dish I could make at home if I wanted to but never want to. Dudeman ordered Chebureki, two extremely large empanada-like deep-fried lamb dumplings. They were huge. Good (how could they not be? They're deep fried bread pockets stuffed with lamb), but giant and even though they were far lighter than the mushroom stroganoff, which was like having a tub of glue in your stomach, the chebureki was still heavy. As it turns out, after the appetizers, my three vodkas no longer had any effect on me.
Come time for the entrees and not a soul at the table was hungry anymore. But, for blog and country, soldiered on did we. I ordered the Chicken Kiev. I mean, it seems sacriligious to be offered chicken kiev and turn it down. Chicken Kiev, in case you were wondering, is chicken that they somehow turn into a vessel for several tablespoons of herbal butter which then gets breaded and deep fried. Then, when you cut it open, the butter pours out like floods from a broken dam and pools on your plate, soaking your side dishes. Glorious, decadent food designed to give you a coronary while you're still young enough to enjoy it. It was served with decent, super smooth mashed potatoes and a piddling little salad that was more garnish than anything else. Shrink ordered the Beef Stroganoff, beef in a heavy sour cream sauce with mushroom. Similar to the mushroom stroganoff appetizer, but without the cheese. Of course it was good. How could it not be? It also came with a side of mashed potatoes and weighed in at about four hundred pounds.Dudeman's dinner was the Zharkoe, a lamb stew with boiled potato (and just about nothing else) in bread bowl the put the appetizer sized one to shame. It was okay, but not as good as the other two entrees. Unless you eat the bread bowl, which is larger than you are, it's just too healthy a dish.
Overall, we had a great time. The atmosphere was fun, kitchy to the point of physically laughing at it. The food was good, but you got a ton of it and the presentation was as close to zero as one could get before the staff just brings the pot out from the kitchen and simply spoons it onto the plate in front of you. The service started out very good, but after the entrees were ordered our waitress vanished into thin air, never to be seen again. Someone else brought out a beer that I ordered, but it came a half hour after I ordered it (no exaggeration) as we were finishing the meal, at which point I didn't really want it any more.
Seven drinks, three appetizers, three entrees, tax and tip came to about $250.
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