Our second stop this Restaurant Week was at The Russian Tea Room. The Russian Tea Room is a NYC classic, but I had no idea why. I also had no idea why I had never been there before. So Restaurant Week seemed as good a time as any to check it out.
When we entered, we were told that due to the popularity of Restaurant Week, they had opened up the 2nd floor, which was usually reserved for private parties. The hostess bragged about the “Fabergé inspired” egg tree in the back…
This was a plastic tree with some plastic lit up eggs… I didn’t get it.
She also bragged about the “bear aquarium” (which, much to my dismay, was a bear shaped fish aquarium and not, in fact, a big aquarium filled with bears). It turned around and around in the dining room and was filled with large goldfish.
This makes me wonder… who, while decorating a dining room, says “I know what would be perfect! A bear shaped aquarium that spins!” But hey… there was opulence everywhere in this dining room with no clear decoration direction… so I guess it went with the room.
Onto the food!
The regular menu was VERY expensive. All apps were $18-$35 ($18 for beet salad!) and most entrees were in the $36-$48 range ($39 for beef stroganoff and $38 for chicken kiev!)
We stuck to the Restaurant Week menu.
Mike started with the Goat Cheese and Wild Mushroom Blinchik which was described as a crêpe filled with mixed mushrooms, goat cheese, melted onions and lingonberries. It was crispy and actually quite good.
I got the borscht. It was no Veselka, but it was decent. I found it tasted more like carrots than beets, but it was still hearty and good. It came with a small meat-pie type thing that was so so.
Mike got the chicken a la king. It both looked, and tasted, like wedding food.
I got the filet of beef that came with garlic mashed potatoes and “baby vegetables.” The mashed potatoes tasted quite bland (no garlic) and the “baby vegetables” consisted of a single carrot and a single piece of asparagus. Neither were baby, unless the portion size was what they were describing. This also both looked, and tasted, like wedding food. Cheap wedding food.
For dessert, Mike got the cheesecake. As a purist, he LOVED this. It was absolutely pure cream cheese and sugar. I can’t blame him for enjoying that.
My dessert was the “chocolate dome.” It was filled with some raspberry something. It was overcooked, dry, and one note. One of the most boring desserts I’ve ever tried. Bleh. When I don’t finish dessert, you know something is wrong.
The service was also pretty horrid. No one offered us refills on water nor wine, it took a long time between courses, and we waited 20 minutes for our check before finally asking a busser to get it. Our waiter never even came over in the next 15 minutes before we left. Bravo.
Overall, the Russian Tea Room seems to be relying on it’s long-standing history and it’s opulence, rather than on its food and service. The food was hardly passable, and had I spent more than the Restaurant Week price ($35 per meal), I would not have been pleased. Even $35 for what we ate was decidedly overpriced. This is the exact reason Restaurant Week has a bad rep. I want to assume that they served so-so things to fit into the price of RW, rather than serving smaller portions of their regular menu (which gives people a reason to come back and eat off the regular menu). If their regular menu is that bad, they are robbing New York tourists.
Total Nom Points: 5 out of 10