My memories of The Russian Tea Room consist of a family visit in the late 1970s to celebrate an occasion that I have since forgotten. In 2021, I entered a restaurant that has had many lives since its heyday in 1927, when founded by the Russian Imperial Ballet, as a bakery and tea shop. The restaurant has evolved through several owners, and renovations over the years, but it still stands apart from most other dining options in New York City, with its authentic Russian cuisine and unique atmosphere. Today, the restaurant is a combination of the original grand décor and ambiance, along with modern touches, including, reinvented cuisine, with vegetarian and gluten-free choices.
Walking through the doors of The Russian Tea Room beneath the iconic red canopy, is like time travel into the scene of an imperial Russian salon. The gold ceiling, jeweled chandeliers, red leather banquettes, and gold winged creatures sculpted on the walls between the banquettes, provide an ornate atmosphere of escape to another time and place. I personally love the décor, albeit a bit over the top for some. It is nice to dine in an atmosphere where you feel as if you are in another country, if only for a few hours.
Sitting in the comfortable, red leather banquette facing out towards the room, it seemed smaller than I recalled as a child, but no less impressive today. I appreciate dining as an escape, especially after eating on sidewalks for the last year, which offer anything but a respite from the city. As we settled in and perused the ample wine, cocktail, and dinner menu, I decided to order the Boyer Imperial, made with Legend of Kremlin vodka, and Chambord, along with sour cherry preserves. The vodka was amazing, and potent, so I nursed my cocktail throughout dinner.
The dinner menu had vegetarian options, and a variety of other tempting selections. We decided to begin with classic borscht for an appetizer, the Boeuf a la Stroganoff for me and New York Strip Ockap, for my guest. The beef stroganoff was a modern-day version of the classic dish, but no less delicious. Thick noodles with mushrooms, and black truffle cream sauce were served separate from the red wine braised beef short ribs on the plate. The beef was extremely tender, melting in the mouth and easily breakable with just a fork. The sauce was not overpowering, but light, and well-seasoned. The 12 oz. New York Strip Steak was served with poached lobster in butter sauce, along with baby vegetables. This dish was also incredibly tender and seasoned to perfection, with an updated, colorful, presentation.
After a leisurely dinner, dessert did not disappoint. One cannot go wrong with any of the menu choices, including, Tiramisu, Chocolate Mousse Cake, and classic cherry and cheese blintzes with the Czar’s gold and caviar parfait, topped with 24K edible gold. We had the Tiramisu and Chocolate Mousse Cake, and both continued the melt in your mouth sensation from our dinner entrees. I am not usually a chocolate fan, but the Chocolate Mousse Cake won me over with its moist and smooth texture. The Tiramisu was light and just sweet enough to delight any palate.
Based on my recent experience, The Russian Tea Room is alive with a perfect blend of nostalgia and modern, authentic Russian cuisine. If you want a break from the ordinary restaurant fare, and long for a special, dining extravaganza, The Russian Tea Room is worth a visit. There is even a second-floor dining room called the Bear Lounge, used for private events and additional dining during busy season. If you want a short visit, come for Afternoon Tea, served with vegetarian and gluten free menus. Dining should feel like a brief vacation from the everyday world, and The Russian Tea Room delivers that and more. www.russiantearoomnyc.com.
The Russian Tea Room
150 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019