Lets Infiltrate the World of Fancy Food! Restaurant Week Reviews Part 1: Dinner at the Fire Bird
Restaurant Week offers those of us who can barely afford rent to finally try food we could otherwise not even afford to look at in places with grandeur we only encountered on the teasing screens of televisions. The staff of Meandering Entertainer will do what it can to gorge on scrumptious splendor and report the results. The chance to pay a mere $35 for dinner or $24.07 (a nice rounded number) for lunch in a swanky restaurant will last until the 27th of July.
The heavy gilded gates marked the Fire Bird as a place apart from the rest of the Restaurants on West 46th street, also known as restaurant street, as it is home to many eateries favored by the theater crowd.
Visitors step down into a dimly lit reception room where hosts and hostesses in eveningwear either escort the party to their table or to the gleaming bar where a piano player helps pass the time as one waits for the rest of the party to gather. The walls are painted in dark shades, but also almost entirely covered in prints of classic European paintings easily recognized by Russian clientele as well as shelves filled with beautiful dishes, vases, and various knick-knacks.
The restaurant is designed to inspire nostalgia in people who spent time in St. Petersburg or are natives of the country famous for Samovars, Matryoshki (nesting dolls) and long dead Czars. The website boasts old Russian royalty as the originators of the restaurant and the name itself, Fire Bird, refers to a Russian folk tale about a beautiful magical bird with a fiery plumage.
The downstairs hall is filled with chandeliers, although the lighting still dim, affording an atmosphere of privacy and coziness despite the quickly filling tables. Up the twisting staircase, carved out of dark wood and creaking underfoot, is a more majestic hall, with another bar as well as a lounge filled with antique Russian couches and armchairs under a large chandelier. High ceilings and dramatic entrances characterize the hall as well as walls again laden with paintings, tapestries, and other displays. The diners are all well dressed, and the strangely home-like atmosphere is never broken by drunk shrillness.
Most of the staff speaks Russian, although much of the clientèle could not take advantage of that fact as they were there to experience the Eastern European cuisine not usually found at home. The dishes offered were exotic by American standards and those patrons of American heritage seemed pleased. Beef Stroganoff, Ukha, and Katlyeta Po Kievski were all old boot to the Russians, who knew they were presented with some chopped up and fried beef, fish stew, and a cutlet with rice which were laughably expensive for the originally peasant foods that they are.
Food selection was quite limited from the Restaurant Week menu as well as a la carte. But the drinks selection was of the sort not easily gotten elsewhere, such as shots of honeyed vodka which was like liquid candy with a purging aftertaste that did not leave one’s mouth feeling slimed with sugar. Peasant dishes or not, the Beef Stroganoff on my plate, as well as the baked Lasos’ (salmon) on the plate of my co-diner were excellent.
The desserts of the Fire Bird were few, but beautifully presented, well done, and often served with rich and delicious ice cream that reminded one of the way ice cream tasted before pasteurization and calorie counting took hold. The tea came in upwards 0f ten varieties and was served in glasses with ornate metal holders. Although possible to mistake for something high-class, a native would recognize these as the glasses tea was served in on the long train rides between countries, often lasting for days, when wagonfuls of families ate what food still hadn’t gone bad, told jokes to pass the time, and drank tea with abandon.
Overall I would rate the restaurant as a 4/5. The lost star is due to the waiters who stopped being unobtrusive into our third hour there when our plates were taken away and we were asked twice if payment was forthcoming. The decor was stunning, the atmosphere pleasing and the food as well as desserts were, although simple, nevertheless delicious. The vodka selection was worth an extra star all of its own. This is a place I will try to return to next year, as the prices are otherwise ludicrously extravagant.
Article Copyright © 2007 to ETL