Archive for the tag 'russian food'

Tsob Tsobe! at Coney Island Avenue

Tsob Tsobe! at 2817 Coney Island Avenue

It was with great dismay that we noticed Back to USSR pulling down its signs over the summer, after two years in business. The kitschy, Soviet-themed restaurant at 2817 Coney Island Avenue was a great place to bring people from outside of Sheepshead Bay, pulling back the curtain a bit on the area’s Russian-speaking cultures with a tongue planted firmly in-cheek.

But the storefront didn’t stay empty long. Some time in the past few weeks Tsob-Tsobe! took its place, declaring itself a”cafe lounge bar.” They redid the entire storefront, interior and exterior. Unlike its predecessor, which elevated the atmosphere with a large statue of Vladimir Lenin with kielbasa in hand, Tsob-Tsobe! is tastefully decorated and is earning kudos from Yelpers.

The online directory says it’s serving Mediterranean, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine, but we’ve learned that with local restaurants, that could mean Turkish, or it could mean the menu is a smorgasbord of Turkish, Uzbeki and Russian foodstuffs. With their website not yet built and no menu available online, we’ll just have to wait to visit to find out.

As for the name? We’re having trouble tracking down its provenance. Some Googling suggests it’s something Cossack cowboys yelled at their cattle, or farmers upon receiving a good harvest – but we can’t say for sure. Anybody able to fill us in?

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Sheepshead Bay Road’s Global Wholesale Market may reopen two years after it sold its last apple, as the building is currently undergoing major renovations.

The building at 1414 Sheepshead Bay Road sat silently since the business’ closure in September 2012, nearly a decade after it first opened. But, as any straphanger using the Sheepshead Bay Road subway station has noticed, workers have been on the roof installing new steel support beams.

Photo by Eugene Zhukovsky

Photo by Eugene Zhukovsky

According to paperwork filed with the Department of Buildings, it’s a renovation of an “existing supermarket” with plans to replace the storefronts, reinforce the roof (via the steel columns), and excavate beneath the building to create a cellar.

In terms of usable space created by the new cellar, the building is expanding from 18,350 square feet to 21,600, the maximum allowed by zoning.

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That’s not all. The oddly-shaped lot currently has storefront space on East 14th Street, adjacent to CVS’ parking lot. This will be torn down, according to the plans, and replaced with an 18-car parking lot.

The plot diagram submitted to the Department of Buildings. It will remain a one-story supermarket, but they're adding parking and digging out a basement.

The plot diagram submitted to the Department of Buildings. It will remain a one-story supermarket, but they’re adding parking and digging out a basement.

There’s no word on when the work will be done. The owners – the same as under Global Wholesale Market, according to the paperwork – were not available to comment when we called.

Apparently they’ve gotten into a bit of trouble, though:

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A Department of Buildings spokesperson confirmed that the Stop Work Order is still active, and was issued on September 29 because some demolition and the installation of the structural steel was being done without permits. The only work they’re currently allowed to do is back-fill behind the building, and by hand only. The spokesperson noted that any other work witnessed at the site should be reported immediately to 311.

While we’re sure that will slow down the work, we’re still happy to see this space being put back to use. We’ll keep you posted if we hear back about an opening date.

blinoff

Blinoff Creperie is now open on Coney Island Avenue, nearly a year after signs went up announcing the location.

We first reported on the new eatery in January after we spotted a “coming soon” sign was posted on the 2421 Coney Island Avenue storefront, but it looks like it took some time to get those finishing touches in order.

The location has been serving up blini, or Russian crepes, for approximately two weeks. They offer nearly two dozen crepes, including gluten-free options, alongside soups, salads and kasha. The most expensive item on the menu is a mere $8.50.

The business replaces Verrazano Carpet.

One of the varieties of Russian black bread. (Photo by Bacon And Tofu / Flickr)

THE BITE: Many things can be said about the Russian community of Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay, but you can’t take away their authenticity. If you don’t get hit by a stroller overflowing with groceries, you’re doing something wrong.

There are over 20 fruit and vegetable stores within a 10-block radius, and that’s a scary thought. Politics and personal opinions about this aside, one of the most unique foods these places offer is a fresh baked hunk of chorniy hleb. 

You may know it as rye or pumpernickel, but I assure you, it’s infinitely more complex. Just google a recipe for “Russian black bread” and the ingredient list will surprise you. Fennel, caraway seeds, espresso, cocoa powder, and it doesn’t stop there. Hmm, that’s exactly why I prefer to buy the golden brown crack, er, bread, already made, sliced and ready for me to slather with salo; but more on that later.

There are many varieties, the two most common being Borodinsky and Litovsky. Where the names come from is a bit of a hard case to crack, as much of the available information is just urban legend.

Borodinsky is possibly named after the battle of Borodino, when the Russians fought against Napolean Bonaparte in 1812. It has a strong coriander scent and is sweetened with molasses. Litovsky hleb (bread) is much denser and usually darker. It is chewy and significantly sweet.

Black bread is to a Russian child what I imagine Wonder Bread is to a tot growing up in the states, except it remains flavorful, even as an adult. You better believe the little ones weren’t smothering the fermented sourdough with peanut butter and jelly. Although it’s delicious when eaten warm and adorned with a slick of butter, there are several classic toppings that ring bells in the minds and hearts of former USSR citizens.

Sandwiches are always open-faced, not unlike a Parisian tartine. Hungarian salami is a typical household cold cut, and brings back funny memories for me personally. In elementary school, all the kids who brought butterbrodi (open faced sandwiches) would stink up the classroom upon lunchbox retrieval. Instantaneously, the space could have been confused for an eastern European smoke shop.

Shproti are also a cherished “treat” from the motherland, delicately smoked and drizzled with sunflower seed oil. In case you aren’t familiar, shproti are smoked sardines (which is why I put treat in quotation marks). Traditionally, thin slices of toasted black bread are cloaked with slices of refreshing cucumbers and meaty sardines. It’s an acquired taste.

I’ve saved the best for last. You’ve probably seen it, heard of it, maybe even tried it. I’m referring to salo, a dieter’s paradise. Just kidding, it’s actually a nightmare for anyone trying to watch their cholesterol and/or general health.

Salo is cured pork that is sliced thin and served uber-cold over the chorniy hleb with a pungent scallion to cut through the fattiness. This butterbrod is as Ukrainian as it gets. If you’re not feeling ambitious enough to go and buy the counterparts, head over to your favorite Russian market or restaurant and place your order.

When you feel like getting creative in the kitchen, try making your favorite sandwich and discover all the new flavors that pop out because of this flavorful dough. I recommend a gluttonous corned beef sandwich with cheddar and brown mustard.

Here’s where to go to buy black bread:

  • Brighton Bazaar, 1007 Brighton Beach Avenue
  • Cherry Hill Gourmet Market, 1901 Emmons Avenue
  • Net Cost Market, 2257 East 16th Street
  • Sheepshead Bay Fruit & Vegetables Market, 1717 Avenue Z

Until next time, dasvidaniya!

Jane Poretsky is a Sheepshead Bay resident and lover of all things edible. She blogs about her own food creations at Caramelized Sarcasm.

The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

blinoff

A new eatery called Blinoff Creperie has popped up at 2421 Coney Island Avenue, next to the Burger King south of Avenue U.

Blini, for the uninitiated, is a Russian crepe. Very tasty served with salmon caviar and sour creme.

We shot this photo about two weeks ago, so if the doors aren’t open yet, they will be very soon.

The storefront was previously occupied by Verrazano Carpet.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Blinoff!

UPDATE (11:00 a.m.): Facebook user Vika left us a note pointing out that this sign has been up for about three months. So maybe it won’t be open all that soon after all.

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THE BITE: Comrades! Today we admire Soviet kitsch in a Soviet kitchen: Back to USSR, at 2817 Coney Island Avenue off of Avenue Z.

Here you’ll find an oversized bronze monument of Lenin in the main dining room, and walls emblazoned with waving hammer-and-sickle flags in the side room. There’s 70s-style rotary phones hanging off the walls, and all kinds of memorabilia of the Soviet era.

The menu features 10 flavors of homemade infused vodkas and an extensive list of cleverly named Russian dishes printed in both English and Russian. I know, I’m supposed to be focusing on the food, but you can’t talk about this place and not mention the ambiance.

And, actually, after chuckling a little every time I passed, I was so very curious if it was a mistake that the definite article “the” was left out of the restaurant name. Is there a sense of humor about the good old USSR here?

Curiosity got the best of me. I gathered some friends and made the trip.

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zaircafe

Zair Cafe, a new restaurant serving “Russian & Eastern food,” is set to open soon at 2223 Avenue X, the corner of East 23rd Street.

The new restaurant replaces an Eastern European luncheonette and food mart. We’re not sure when it closed down, or if it’s the same ownership.

A sign in the window says it will open soon and will also have catering options. We wish the new cafe good luck.

Source: Google Maps

Source: Google Maps

The owner of the popular Brighton Beach-based Tatiana’s Restaurant (3152 Brighton 6th Street) lost a tax battle due to a ruling that will cost her hundreds of thousands of dollars. Forbes is reporting that the New York Division of Tax Appeals has denied Tatiana Varzar’s claim that she is a Florida resident, and owed back taxes for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006.

In those years, Varzar claimed to be living in Pompano Beach, Florida. By doing so, she saved herself $231,422, money she’ll now have to pay back plus penalties and interest. Forbes went through the ruling and showed why Varzar failed to make her case that she was a Florida resident in the mid 2000s, and used it to illustrate New York State’s strong tax law. Dual residents beware.

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Cafe Kashkar (Source: roboppy via flickr)

Cafe Kashkar (Source: roboppy via flickr)

Respected New York City food critic Robert Sietsema took a visit to Brighton Beach to sample the local cuisine. In an article for NY Eater, Sietsema heaps praise on some of the best food joints in the area, highlighting Cafe Kashkar (1141 Brighton Beach Avenue) in particular.

Sietsema opens his report declaring that of all the neighborhoods surrounding New York City beaches, Brighton Beach has the best food options. Right off the bat, Sietsema describes the wonders of the drool worthy Cafe Kashkar:

While you may tend to think of Brighton Beach as a Russian and formerly-Soviet enclave, it is much more than that. Café Kashkar (1141 Brighton Beach Avenue, 718-743-3832) is the jewel in the crown, a rare Uyghur establishment that peddles the Silk Road food of Xinjiang, China, which means big meaty lamb dumplings called manti, homemade noodles known as lagman in soups and stir fries, cumin-dusted kebabs (pick lamb rib), and cold composed salads that are just the thing for the hot summer months. And at prices so cheap your jaw will drop.

Stops along Sietsema’s route include the supermarket Brighton Bazaar (1007 Brighton Beach Avenue), which features extensive carryout options, Kebeer (1003 Brighton Beach Avenue), a “German-themed Russian beer garden” pan fried Russian meats and burgers and sausages and Café Glechik (3159 Coney Island Avenue), a place that sports “a very nice rabbit stew.”

Other places Sietsama recommends include the street food parked in front of the Russian supermarket Tokyo Bay (309 Brighton Beach Avenue) where you can get fried piroshki with a large selection of stuffings. The critic also notes the fine selection of Turkish food available in the area:

The Turks seem to be moving into Brighton Beach in force, and there’s a new branch of the Union City, New Jersey old-timer Beyti Kebab (414 Brighton Beach Avenue, 718-332-7900). Cooked over charcoal, the ground-lamb adana kebabs are particularly fine, and so are the feta-stuffed pastries called bureks and the cold-yogurt soup, cacik. Speaking of pastries, there’s a new branch of the Istanbul coffee-and-dessert chain Gulluoglu (231 Brighton Beach Avenue, 347-577-6150) just across the street, offering more types of baklava than you can well imagine. If you’re in a kinky mood, try one of the oddly dressed Turkish hot dogs.

If you are not yet starving, you can check out the entirety of Sietsema’s report as well as his complete rankings by clicking here.

Screenshot of BCTV host Alyonka Larionov from “BCTV – Brighton Beach” by Ali Hashemi. Source: Vimeo

If you have visited the brand-spanking new Barclays Center this year, you might have already seen this cool new tribute to Brighton Beach, which has been playing on Barclays Center Television (BCTV).

The video features the fetching Alyonka Larionov jaunting her way through Brighton Beach, eating authentic pierogis, vamping like Leo DiCaprio on the boardwalk, and sharing drinks with some friendly Moscovians in town to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

Aloynka, who makes mention of her Russian roots, does get a little confused when referencing Brighton Beach Boulevard, which we all know doesn’t exist. Geographic error aside, she leads an otherwise cheerful tour through Brighton Beach, checking out Russian hats, Russian dolls (no, not these Russian Dolls) and Russian candy. She even expounds a little upon that “funny little creature,” Cheburashka.

It’s a fun, snappily-edited and mood-brightening journey though Little Odessa.

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