Thursday, February 11, 2010

Brunch at the Russian Tea Room

Paul and I were already thinking about having lunch at the Russian Tea Room, so when I read that there would be tours of the landmark for a limited-time only, I didn't hesitate. Reservation made.

That reservation was for last Sunday, and we had a delicious Christmas meal. Yep, for the second year in a row Paul and I didn't exchange Christmas gifts. Instead we treat ourselves to a special, more-expensive-than-usual meal. Last year: Aquavit. This year: Russian Tea Room.

First, the tour. It started on the fourth floor, a private room where the likes of Susan Sarandon, Hillary Clinton and Richard Gere have hosted friends. The highlights: a replica of the Kremlin, amazing wooden inlays and a gold-leaf rotunda. And this was the least-impressive floor.

The third floor took my breath away, but only because it was so completely over the top. The walls were gigantic mirrors, each featuring a bear in some sort of circus pose, like juggling or playing a flute (not sure how that one's a circus pose, but anyway ...). Even more gold leaf, and a red mother-of-pearl ceiling. Wow.

The second floor was my favorite. Our guide told us that he's heard that the life-size bear aquarium is one of the top 10 photographed things in New York. I'm not sure if that's true, but I helped the aquarium move up the list anyway.

The floor also featured a giant "tree" with huge Faberge-inspired eggs hanging from the branches. The mother-of-pearl ceiling on this floor was rainbow colored. The whole floor felt very aquatic.

Now, for the food. Between the two of us, we had borscht, a blinchik (kind of like a tiny crepe), beef stroganoff, vareniki (Russian-style ravioli, although I'm not exactly sure what made them Russian) and two pyramids of chocolate mousse. And what would the tea room be without tea service? It came complete with a pot, sugar cubes and cherries to drop in the glass (although I ate them plain).

New York has a lot of restaurants but only a limited number of tried-and-true institutions, and with Tavern on the Green recently closing there's one less. At least we can now check the Russian Tea Room off our list!

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