Christmas Restaurant Nostalgia Part 3: The Russian Tea Room

December 14th, 2013 § 0 comments

The Russian Tea Room on New York’s W. 57th Street (next door to Carnegie Hall) celebrated Christmas every day. The owner, the delightful Sidney Kaye, decided he liked the way Christmas decorations enhanced the restaurant so they never came down. Red and green forever. It was just one of the restaurant’s eccentricities like the forgetful old female waitpersons (many had been ballerinas in pre-revolution Russia) and the ever changing hat check girls (Madonna was one). During the Christmas season it was HG/BSK’s dinner choice after a movie at one of the nearby art cinemas. Their meal was always the same: Eggplant Orientale (the RTR’s version of baba ghanoush). Karsky Shashlik (succulent lamb kebabs) with rice pilaf. Raspberry Kissel (a raspberry compote topped with whipped cream). A bottle of Pommard or Pomerol (affordable then). HG knocked off some chilled vodka with the eggplant and cognac with coffee. BSK was more abstemious. If the weather was very cold or appetites had a sharp edge, HG/BSK preceded the meal with bowls of steaming dark red borscht decorated with a dollop of sour cream and accompanied by flaky piroshki (meat filled pastries). As a special treat, HG/BSK would take their kids to RTR for a Christmas holiday brunch (with SJ decked out in one of RTR’s loaned — and invariably over-sized — sport jackets) of butter drenched blini with red caviar and sour cream. Gifted Daughter Lesley R. pays tribute to this memory every Christmas Eve by making superior blini which the family tops with red caviar or smoked fish. Not to be outdone,on Christmas Day morning SJ makes very superior potato latkes (a modest nod to Chanukah) which get similar delicious treatment. Holiday feasting at its best.


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