Many people want to have their own restaurant, but few have the means to accomplish such a task. Most restaurants start as a chance meeting between aspiring chef with financier. Unless you’re a Grammy award winning artist, then you’re pretty much allowed to do what you want without the culinary background.
The restaurant Ariana, named predictably after the owner – Russian American singer Ariana Grinblat, is relatively unknown in the US market but has won Russian Grammys back in the motherland. Her new restaurant project doesn’t include a celebrity chef, but is her own interpretation on what Russian cuisine should be for the American palate. This is not a stereotypical palatial restaurant serving caviar, but a modestly stylish restaurant featuring what real Russians eat.
The meal started with pickled vegetables, each at different levels of acidity and saltiness. A great way to whet the appetite as the sour and savory crunch really sets the mood for a meal.
The two appetizers sampled were on the opposite end of the opulence spectrum. On one end, the tomato-focused salad delivered a fresh, light flavor that’s complimented by sweet golden and red beets. The sliced star fruits were a great touch.
For a more luxurious palate, the foie gras was silky smooth and surprisingly creamy. There’re many foie gras plates that overwhelm you with heavy flavors, this was more subtle, but the excellent flavors kept coming.
There are two Pelmeni dishes to choose from. These are basically small dumplings with unleavened dough. The Sturgeon Pelmeni are wrapped in dough darkened with squid ink. The flavors of the poached sturgeon really comes through, much like a fish taco in a soft flour shell. The dough also picks up flavor from the velvety smooth saffron velouté.
Duck Pelmeni doesn’t look as visually powerful without the black dough, but the cilantro leaves deep fried comes out tasting like seaweed, which accompanied the main protein beautifully. A delightful surprise.
Lastly, the fried prawns with a light mayo tastes surprisingly like something you’d find at a Cantonese Chinese restaurant. This fact is further enhanced by the shredded seaweed on the plate, another ingredient of Asian origins. It’s a fine dish, just with more Chinese flavors than what we’d normally define as Russian.
Overall, Ariana presents a facet of Russian cuisine that we normally don’t get to experience, in a comfortable setting on Houston Street. Normally when Musicians try their hand at dining the results are less than spectacular, but in this case Ariana seems to be off to a solid start.
What does this rating mean?
138-140 W Houston St
New York, NY 10012
Disclosure: The meal was complimentary, but this did not affect my opinion, nor was I required to write.