Mari Vanna

41 E 20th St. New York, NY 10003(212) 777-1955marivanna.ru/ny

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The name alone brings a smile to my face because it sounds a lot like marijuana. The other smile inducer is the décor, dressed like a movie set plucked right out of the 1920’s in post World War I Russia. From the chairs to the plates to the distressed walls and the copper kettle sink in the bathroom, you feel as if you’ve actually just done the Time Warp again.

It’s just a jump to the left. And then a step to the right. Sorry. Getting very sidetracked in a Rocky Horror kinda way. So back on topic, the décor somehow comes off authentic and not as gimmick, partly because it’s very well done and partly because the employees are actually Russian and I want to believe they wouldn’t dare work at a place that turned their culture into a caricature.

The food is also pretty authentic, for better or for worse, because it’s not exactly the most decadent cuisine, most dishes being born out of a need to pack on the pounds to keep warm, or out of poverty-stricken means to survive. This is excluding the caviar, of course.

Starting with the bread, it is served with a customary beet and green onion, along with coarse sea salt, which you are supposed to drag the root veggies through before eating. I took a pass and opted for the bread, because if it’s one thing Russians do well, it’s pain (2 points for the double entendre).

For starters we went with another classic, the Olivier Salad, made with roasted vegetables, bologna and mayonnaise. It was just okay, tasting more or less like potato salad, to be honest. This was then followed by the pickled herring, which was also a bit underwhelming, to be honest. I’ve had much better at some of the Kosher Delis in the city, not to mention the Romanian ones.

But the best starter- no, the best dish in totality, was by far the Borsh. So rich and hearty, the beets were like meat, and the broth like the sweet blood of Sookie Stackhouse. In other words, it’s most definitely an Ultimate.

On the other end of the spectrum, the most disappointing dish of all was the much touted Stroganoff, only offered as chicken instead of beef, which made the dish horribly bland, the chicken, rice and sauce all tasting like shades of the same. Not sure what the Yelpers are thinking on this one, but this strogan was off. So off, in fact, that I actually preferred the meat stuffed dumplings with sour cream. Nothing spectacular, but they reminded me a little bit of the Turkish dish manti, granted they are probably closer to a perogie than anything, in a good way.

The tally is mixed on this one, as you can see, but I’m leaning to the low side because of the slow service and a waiter who swooned about everything on the menu as if it were made with gold. I hate that.

2 teeth

 

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop

727 Manhattan Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11222(718) 389-3676 • peterpan-donuts.com

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Unless you are in the know, or you’ve been tipped off by someone who is, you would walk right past this unassuming place. In fact, that’s exactly what my friend did even though we were on a mission, heading directly there.

Once you find it, step inside and you will soon discover that the bakery is very old school. In fact, the only renovation in sight was probably the upgrade from rotary to push button phone. Even the prices seem to be stuck in the past (no complaints) with a dozen setting you back a mere 10 bucks, which is robbery… of THEM. Just one bite of the Blueberry Buttermilk and you would gladly pay the same amount for just that one doughnut alone.

And while you’re likely to hear many others rave about the Old Fashioned, the Red Velvet, Honey Dipped and Sour cream I say skip all of them, because they are snores by comparison to the Maple. In fact, the Maple is so damn irresistible, when we cut it up for sharing we actually found a hair baked into it, but still kept eating. Yes, it’s so good it’s worth getting Hep B. And this was actually my second favorite! Which should speak volumes about how incredible the Blueberry Buttermilk must be. Obviously and Ultimate.

In third place I’d go with the apple crumble (pictured), which is pretty much what it sounds like, the cross pollination of an apple crumble and a doughnut. And in fourth, the chocolate coconut. A bit less inventive than the others, but nice and dense with the cake, which is how I prefer my doughnuts. Sure, fluff and airy has its merits, but I prefer that in my croissants. When it comes to doughnuts, I want the thing to weigh in like a 10 pound plate at the gym, not that I would know since I haven’t worked out in ages… unless you count digesting as exercise?

My only gripe holding them back from 5 knives, other than the string of “ehs” noted above, would be the way the clerk guilted me into buying a 13th doughnut. After ringing me up and tying up the box, she bothers to ask if this was my first time. I naturally replied, “yes,” hence why I bought the friggin’ store out so I could try everything. So THEN she tells me I have to get the Sour Cream because it’s the best one. Now, I appreciate the tip, but A) I would’ve preferred the tip at the onset of donut-palooza, before the transaction was settled and the dozen chosen. And B) if you are going to ask me to pull my wallet back out and go for a 13th, you better be fucking right! But as you can probably surmise from my tone, the sour cream was, well… a sour note. So unworthy of the recommendation that it cost Peter Pan a knife. Fortunately for them, I doubt it will hurt their business one iota.

4 teeth