Christmas Restaurant Nostalgia Part 3: The Russian Tea Room

December 14th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

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.


Sidney Kaye And HG’s RTR Charge Account.

May 8th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG has posted before about the wonders of the Russian Tea Room when it was run by the late, great Sidney Kaye. HG had a charge account at RTR and since his offices were directly across the street from the restaurant, HG lunched there at least three times a week. There was also an occasional blini-red caviar-melted butter-sour cream weekend brunch. A few sumptuous dinners here and there, not to mention a good number of after work vodkas at the bar. In time HG’s tab began to resemble the national debt. Then, for some reason, monthly statements stopped coming. Guilty HG phoned Sidney. Here’s Sidney’s response: “Goddamn bookkeeper. Can’t anybody do anything right? I should fire everyone and start all over again. You owe me money? So what? You’re the least of my worries. Goodbye,” Hangs up.

HG kept eating and charging.

Shibumi. Ramen Delight. Highly Unusual Orgasms, Etc.

April 6th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

HG and BSK lunched today at Shibumi Ramenya in downtown Santa Fe (Johnson and Chapelle, to be precise). Perfection in every detail — decor (Japanese rustic); service (suave); food (sophisticated but earthy). There’s spicy pork gyoza, some creative Japanese vegetable tapas (burdock root, black seaweed, sesame spinach and bunapi mushroom). And, there’s the little bistro’s raison d’etre: Ramen with four distinct broth styles: Tonkotsu ramen with roasted korobuta pork; Torigara with roasted chicken; Kaisen with shrimp and Yasai with vegetables. HG and BSK had the Tonkotsu Ramen and it had flavors in depth — a powerful and multi-layered broth, perfect noodles (excelling in both spring and smooth mouth feel) and roasted pork slices that seemed a marriage between belly and loin. The cutlery, spoons with long wooden handles and a capacious bowl married aesthetics with function. Prices are moderate. The cash policy (no credit cards) helps keep it that way. The proprietor is Eric Stapelman. He also owns Trattoria Nostrani, an adjacent Italian restaurant. Nostrani’s menu is superb and HG/BSK will be dining there soon and posting a report.

Stapelman has the reputation of not tolerating disrespect for his food, personnel, or restaurant. And, he won’t have perfumed folk. Good. HG’s kind of guy. All of my favorite restaurant men (Henri Soule at Pavillon in New York or Sidney Kaye at Russian Tea Room, also in New York, behaved that way). Viva Stapelman, Don’t change.

SJ reminded me that Shibumi by Trevanian (a one name author) is the title of one of our favorite good/bad novels (“Godfather” tops that category). The protagonist of “Shibumi” is a assassin/stud named Nicolai Hel (he can kill in a hundred ways including a method using the edge of a playing card). So powerful is his sexual magnetism that he and his beautiful girl friend achieve simultaneous orgasm simply by looking at each other in an intense manner. Commented SJ: “Wow. What would happen if they actually did it?”

Enjoy more conventional (but intense) pleasures at Stapelman’s “Shibumi.”

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