Russians may not necessarily be known for their fairy tales, but they certainly know how to create a fairy tale setting – or so is the case with the Russians running a cozy restaurant tucked away in New York City’s Flatiron District: Mari Vanna.
Walking into Mari Vanna’s is truly like stepping into a fairy tale setting: adorned with old photographs, worn flowered wall paper of another era, Matrioshka dolls, porcelain figurines, crystal chandeliers, a library full of Russian literature and comfortable linen tables decorated with fresh flowers, it is as if you are entering your “babushka’s” house – the Russian equivalent of “grandmother.”
Intended to represent an “archetypal Russian home”, it is named for a mythical woman who “once upon a time lived in St. Petersburg” and who was “known for her warm hospitality.” As recorded on Mari Vanna’s website, “Everyone was welcomed as a dear guest at her home. Her visitants were treated [with] divine traditional Russian dishes, served on her finest china and linens.”
“Not a single person left Mari Vanna’s home disappointed and many returned again and again back to this cozy retreat.” If the restaurant is any indication of the legend’s warmth, hospitality and splendor, then we can certainly understand why.
Indeed, after stumbling upon it in our pursuit of a good meal, it was the perfect escape from the Siberian-like cold, transporting us into another realm, as if we were dining in a restaurant in the heart of the Russian homeland itself.
The food is equally authentic, with classic Russian dishes from Borsch and Stroganoff to “Herring Under a Fur Coat” and a caviar menu, not to mention the cherry-infused vodka – one of the many different types of fruit-infused vodka to choose from that sits in giant glass jars behind the bar.
As for the tea glass set in an ornate silver-plated casing, which were used on Russian trains, that they gave to us as a gift after admiring it? Well, that was classic Russian hospitality: the love of bestowing gifts upon their guests.
Needless to say, Mari Vanna certainly didn’t disappoint us and we plan on returning again and again to this cozy, warm and pleasant retreat. What a happy ending indeed to our pursuit of “All Things Russia” (see below).
Here are a few dishes worth checking out (you can view their full menu here):
Herring Under a Fur Coat
Layers of Chopped Herring, Roasted Carrots, Beets, Potatoes and Onions, Touch of Mayonnaise topped with Shaved Hard Boiled Egg”
The Masterpiece of Russian Cuisine: Flavorful Beet Soup with Beef, Served with Sides of Garlic, Fresh Herbs, Rye Bread
Mors (fresh juice)
Cranberry or Raspberry
Served with Red Caviar and Traditional Condiments
Traditional Russian Honey Layered cake with Seaberry sauce
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