Flatiron: It's been about a week since Russian spot Mari Vanna officially opened its doors on East 20th Street (it was soft open for quite awhile). The restaurant, which is modeled after a dinner club concept that was a hit in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, is made to look like a private home with a "shabby chic" interior and a menu featuring infused vodkas and such classics as chicken Kiev, borscht, $4 oysters, and of course, caviar. Early word finds lots of love for the space, but the food is a slightly murkier issue that might need some more time to be settled.
The Excellent (And Conveniently Located Near Bed, Bath, and Beyond) News: The lone Menupage user who has reviewed the place comes out happy: "We stumbled onto this after a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond. My wife was enchanted by the decor. Staff was very friendly and helpful. I had the stroganoff and my wife the trout. Both superb and great presentation. We split the sunflower salad to start- fresh, delightful, and ended with the Smetannick and strawberries - yummy. With a bottle of wine about $180, about double or norm for dinner, but worth it. We'll go back." [MP]
The Unimpressive News: Eight Yelpers have weighed in so far, and the place finds itself with a cumulative three-star rating. One particularly harsh detractor puts it this way: "Look, Im russian, so when the manager came over and said "We designed this place so people wouldn't always think of us as just being about Borscht and Vodka". The problem is, as a people, we are about Borscht and Vodka, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. As for the place: Was the decor nice? Yes. Was the food good? No. Brooklyn is full of places with INCREDIBLE russian food (which does not, no matter what you hear, consist of Beef Stroganoff), and cheap drinks for maybe $30 a head. Im talking gut busting amounts. This place has food that is OK at best. Chicken Kiev was blah, Trout was meh, and the appetizers were ehhh." [Yelp]
The Suspiciously Good News: That being said, the Yelpers who love the place are crazy about it: "My girlfriends and I had a great time today at this restaurant. Full of charm, full of energy. This is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. We celebrated my friend's birthday and even the restaurant Manager came to sing with the rest of his staff. We all were impressed. The vodkas were delicious as well as the food. This place beat any place in this neighborhood that we have been to. I highly suggest this place for a celebration or an intimate dinner. I know I will be back." [Yelp]
The Really Good News: After issuing a mouth-watering first look post , Jeff Zalaznick of Always Hungry NY stops in for dinner and gives the place a B+. His verdict on the food: "The pancakes were one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. They are a perfectly doughy, pancake-crêpes hybrid. They are incredible eaten alone, with the red caviar which with they are served, and would definitely succeed with some maple syrup and butter in the morning. This dish is incredibly good though, and the quality of Mari Vanna’s salmon roe was on the level of a fabulously fresh ikura. On a side note, in true Russian fashion, if you want to take this dish to the next level, they will allow you to bring your own caviar. Both as a good eater and a good Jew, I have always struggled with my distaste for herring. Pickled, in cream, or at Russ & Daughters during live herring season and eaten right off the tail— I just have never loved it. Mari Vanna’s herring was a special moment for me. It was delicious revelation, and it was not fishy at all. Must be my Russian roots." Lots of love for the vodka, too. [Always Hungry]
The Solid News: Jill Donenfeld of All Things Delicious attends a dinner at Mari Vanna sponsored by The Supper Club and posts some pics with generally positive, uncritical captions. She loves the atmosphere and finds that "the food was really authentic (it seemed ?). My favorite was the Sunflower Salad...I forgot to snap a photo of the borscht, but take my word that it was yum." [All Things Delicious]