So, some friends and I totally went off the beaten path on a recent Saturday night to Gravesend for some Russian food. We ate at the Vodka Gallery (2376 Coney Island Avenue, between Avenue T and Avenue U, 718-645-3400) and had a surprisingly delicious meal out of a number of their small plates. There's a bar in the front area and seating in the back, as well as a large garden which will be wonderful in the warmer months. A trio played music a la the Gypsy Kings which gave the place a festive air. Lining the walls are shelves containing more than 200 different bottles of vodka in every shape and size you can imagine, flavored and not. You can order flights of vodka to taste different kinds, or order a specialty vodka cocktail from the drinks menu.
We started off with the Borscht and a Russian Salad. The borscht was some of the best I've ever had. It was more of a stew with chunks of beef short rib, cabbage, potato, onion and topped with dill. It was delicious, flavorful and a very large portion.
The Russian Salad was made with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and dill in a sour cream dressing. Not very light, but really good. Creamy and tangy, the veggies were fresh & crisp - also a very large portion!
The Potato Latkes with Lox and Cream Cheese were wonderful. Not greasy at all, potato-y with fresh smoky & salty lox. Perfect to split among four people.
The most surprisingly tasty dish was the Beef Tongue served with sauteed onions over slices of sourdough bread, and dill (which seems to be The Herb used at the Vodka Gallery). The meat was tender and savory and the onions were a perfect companion flavor. I don't think I've had ever had beef tongue but it wasn't like I imagined. It was a little like liver, with a slight metallic flavor.
Our waiter recommended the Herring and Potatoes which he said was a popular item. This too was very good with tender pieces of fish and sliced onions, although the potatoes were nothing special.
My other favorite dish was the Traditional Blini with sour cream and caviar. These were moist, slightly sweet crepes served with the creamiest sour cream (almost like creme fraiche) and salty, briny, large caviar. So yum!
We were pretty full after all this food, but we wanted to see what the desserts were like so we split an Apple Strudel served with strawberries on top. This was OK - the pastry was flaky but overall it was underwhelming and not memorable.
We're definitely planning another visit as it would be a perfect place to go with a big group to try the various vodkas, eat yummy traditional Russian & Ukranian food and relax in the backyard garden on a warm summer evening.