Friday, May 13, 2011

Skip the Blinys at Barin Restaurant

Barin Restaurant Russian cuisine on Urbanspoon

Thursday night our Meetup Group (the Culture Sponges) went to the Russian Barin Restaurant (2141 Kingsway; menu).

First, the good news:
  • It's a big room and actually quite a nice space.
  • If you like hot servers, the two waitresses had black tops on that seemed to incidentally-deliberately expose their generous cleavage. A bit obtuse an overkill, I must admit.
  • Medium-sized TVs showing Russian (?) music videos! Fun Euro-pop stuff. A bit retro for a North American audience, but lots of fun and frequently sexy.
We were over 30 people and the restaurant had definitely arranged seating for everyone, but strangely they only had two quickly overwhelmed servers. Also, the menu was quite restricted -- no soups whatsover (no borscht!), and a few entrees dropped. Plus there was talk of no cabbage rolls and only 6 chicken tapakas.

Strangely, most of our group ordered Olivie Salad ($5.95) and a Beef Stroganoff ($14.95) prepared in the traditional way (not the North Americanized savory version with mushrooms and pasta). One or two ordered the Chicken Kiev ($14.95), which apparently turned out very well but I didn't get to try it.

The Olivie Salad and Beef Strognaoff came with token sides of potato chips (or rice, if you preferred) and salad. The actual portion was about one small bowlful, approximately 4 inches in diameter and 2-1/2 inches deep.

The Salad Olivier tasted more or less like potato salad, but with some kick from what was probably diced dill pickles.

The Beef Stroganoff was disappointing. The strips of meat were between tasteless and vaguely like pork, and in any case very chewy. For $14.95 I also expected a larger portion.

I wanted something very different, so I gave the Bliny a go. Basically these are crêpes with fillings. I initially ordered Bliny with red caviar ($18) but over an hour later, the overwhelmed staff reported that it was an "impossible order" because they had no caviar on hand. I switched to salmon ($14), and a dessert bliny with "special milk sauce" ($12).

The bliny with salmon came as four thin crêpes a bit limply stuffed with smoked salmon chunks and folded like spring rolls. There was a token garnish and white dipping sauce (sour cream?). Honestly, for $14 I was expecting much more than four small spring rolls.

The dessert bliny was folded into a wedge like a Crêpe Suzette. The special milk sauce tasted something in between condensed milk and caramel sauce. Four small wedges for $12?!

The bill with tax and apparently pre-included tip totalled $31!

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