Our friends and we should be good judges of Russian and Central Asian food. We met when we were all living in Kiev, and our friends have also lived in Uzbekistan. One big plus in Café Assorti’s favor is that it seems perfectly authentic, but that is also perhaps its downfall. For example, we often saw “vitamin salad” on Ukrainian menus, and certainly one cannot otherwise get typically Central Asian dishes like plov seasoned rice casserole, manti dumplings, or cheburek meat pastry. One can also order borscht (originally of Ukrainian origin), pirozhki meat pastries, Ukrainian pelmeni dumplings, Russian vareniki dumplings, and Russian blini filled crepes. In addition to the “Greek salad” often found on Slavic menus, the addition of Bulgarian shopska salad would have been the perfect touch.
While borscht is ubiquitous in Ukraine, however, its quality varies widely. While always of a red color, either from the presence of beets or tomatoes, and containing cabbage, the broth can be rich and satisfying or thin and meager. Either version, of course, is authentically Ukrainian. Unfortunately, the Café Assorti borscht was on the not-so-tasty side, but it did come with sour cream (smetana) on the side, just like in Ukraine. My plov also seemed overcooked and rather tasteless. My daughter, however, did like her golubtsi stuffed cabbage. The pricing of small, side dishes also seemed very Slavic, since they seemed expensive for the quantity. I shared the borscht with my daughter, since I thought I would get a generous serving for $6.25, but it came in an average-sized soup bowl. And, just like in Ukrainian restaurants, the main courses were meat and a starch. One has to order a side dish of mixed vegetables for $5.80 to complete the course. My glass of wine, while generous, also cost $10. The bill for my wife, daughter, and me came to just over $70.
Our party of six had the restaurant almost to ourselves, since we were there on a Sunday when the Redskins were playing the Seattle Seahawks for a chance to get to the Super Bowl, so service was not a problem. I would give Café Assorti another try, because I suspect the meat pastries are the restaurants forte. And I’m curious about the manti.
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