Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mari Vanna Creates Old Russia In America

I'm obsessed with all things Russian. I have no explanation for this. I'm not Russian. I hate pickled and over-mayonnaised food.  I dislike gray skies and mind-numbing cold. Yet, still I find myself with a deep intrigue for Russian cities, culture, and art. I even took Russian Language in college. What have I used this basic Russian for? Aside from getting the Slavic maintenance man at my office to hang and fix things for free не очень (not much).

Imagine my delight  visiting D.C. two weeks ago with my girlfriends, when we stumbled upon a hip Russian bar and bistro called Mari Vanna.  It's very hard for Russian places to become "hip" in the US because Russia isn't one of the countries we'd consider trendy or modern. I've seen very few Slavic themed clubs or restaurants probably because of the stigma that Russia is simply not "fun". Mari Vanna has sought to overthrow this American misconception and has opened chains of its restaurant in Moscow, St. Petersburg, NYC and London.

According to our hostess, Mari Vanna was a Russian lady who opened her kitchen to travelers and cooked them authentic Russian cuisine. In that vain, Mari Vanna was created with the idea of making people feel as if they were in a bonafide kitchen in the middle of St. Petersburg. Everything in the restaurant feels and looks as if it could be found in any eatery in Moscow, right down to the bathrooms which play creepy Slavic music from an old radio above the toilet. Even the wash-basins appear to be from when the USSR was still in tact.

The bartender was welcoming though I may have soiled that relationship with my clumsy broken Russian. He let us sample all six of the different infused-vodka that were sitting in jugs behind the bar. The fruit flavors were delicious, but I have to say some vodka flavors should not be attempted. The Oatmeal infusion tasted like vodka poured on Quaker oats.

Lighting Fixture that holds wine bottles

Menu on a slab of wood with a spoon attached

Oatmeal, Raspberry and Honey infused-vodka

Bathroom water basin

Non-Russian Ladies enjoying the Russian traditions

Upon leaving, the hostess gave us a lot of Russian candy and, what she claims, is a key to the restaurant. I sincerely hope this key actually will open the doors to Mari Vanna as I will attempt it for throwing a secret Russian Vodka Party in D.C. one of these days. You are all on the invite list.

Free Swag

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