Luckily we read the reviews before heading to the restaurant. Although some of them were scathing, we decided that we want to check out this restaurant after all since we already had made reservations and judge the restaurant and show ourself. So we went there with no expectations and an open mind.
First, the restaurant does not have a private parking lot. The parking on the street is metered (from 8am-8pm) and there is some residential parking that requires a parking pass. Luckily we found a parking spot a little ways down the road where the parking pass was only required until 5pm.
When we entered the restaurant, we stood in line waiting to have our table assigned. There wasn't an official hostess area, and we waited for about 5 minutes until someone from the staff who was rearranging the tables inside, approached the line. The couple in front of us was shown to their table, while we continued to wait patiently. When the 'hostess' returned she explained that they were still setting up the tables as they just finished up with a children's party and she left again to continue her work. She returned a few minutes later and seated us. So far so good.
To me the inside of the restaurant resembled my image of a Russian disco in the 70ies without the spinning disco ball. The waitress came to take our drink order. The menu listed at least 8 different russian beers and some beers on draft. So my boyfriend ordered one of the Russian beers, and I tried to order a draft. Not so fast! The waitress advised us that the draft beers weren't available, bottled only. Ok..we'll go with that! Shortly after she took our order, she returned advising that the Russian beer my boyfriend selected also was not available. We finally found a beer that they did have and proceeded with APPETIZERS..When we tried to order some steamed pirogi we were told that this particular choice will take about 45 min to prepare...nix that! We selected the meat pirogi instead. Next on the order..VODKA! My boyfriend went for the lemon honey pepper one, while I wanted to try the black current flavored vodka, one of a list of vodkas from Lithuania, just to have the waiter explain that they no longer carried any of the Lithuanian vodkas on the menu. So I went with one from Sweden!
As a second appetizer (yes, we came hungry!) we ordered borscht and the lamb, rice and garlic soup, followed by lobster pirogi with fried potatoes and pork shishkebab with mashed potatoes.
The meat pirogies arrived just about the same time the show started. Not much to complain about them. They were hot and tasted decent. However, by now we started getting really uncomfortable as the place did not turn on (or did not have) any A/C and although there were some fans strategically positioned around the restaurant, (not sure if some of them were turned on though) they did not provide any relief to us. Keep in mind..the outside temp was around 90F - August in Florida - and the vodka by now heated us on the inside as well!
The show was something else! The 'chanteuse' was probably in her 50ies, with a blonde wig, a short red blouse, black mini skirt and kneehigh red platform boots! I spare you my remark of what I thought she reminded me of! The first act was a dancer in a 'traditional' Ukranian costume, followed by some Russian disco songs (at least that is what it sounded like), then three dancers in Russian inspired costumes that reached out to the audience to help them dance to 'Kalinka' . For me that was the highlight of the evening, even though the sweat really started to start running down now (no AC, Vodka and now exercise!) So we ordered another round of beer to quench our thirst! Unfortunately the second round never came. So my boyfriend finally decided to take matters into his own hands and purchased the beer from the bar!
Several more song and dance acts followed..from Samba (in Russia??) to Charlie Chaplin, to gypsies and the grand finale...belly dancers! The show ended with the audience being encouraged to be generous and shove $$ bills down the dancers costumes! We gladly obliged - anything to get this over with!!!!
By the way..the borscht was decent, the lamb rice soup was bland, the lobster pirogi tasted terrible, the fried potatoes were cold, and the pork shishkebab was overcooked.
Finally ..the bill arrived and what do we see? A charge for the second round of beers we never received! The waitress did go ahead and reimburse us, but the whole experience left a bitter taste in our mouth...as my boyfriend remarked on our way out " Now let's head to Mc Donalds to cool down and to cleanse our palate!"
I think this restaurant would be a great case for Chef Ramsey's "Kitchen Nightmares" I still like the concept of a Russian Restaurant with a decent show that highlights the vast cultural riches of this country. Unfortunately this is not what this restaurant is about. It was neither cultural nor a cabaret nor sexy (if that was their goal) but rather cheeky, gaudy, outdated and overpriced.
On the other hand, it was an experience that we certainly won't easily forget and that gives us much to talk about!
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