Depending on what kind of person you are, and where you come from, you may have slightly different reactions to the front of Stolovaya which promises "Authentic Soviet Cuisine." I fall in the camp that wants to run inside and try everything, as the Soviet Union no longer exists. Does the food?
As one might expect, most of the dishes here line up exactly as you would find on one of the many Brooklyn Russian restaurants. As per usual, a good selection of appetizers is usually a good plan. All of the food here comes in large portions and is priced almost laughably low. They serve a couple beers on draft, and let you bring in your own bottles of spirits.
Herring salad ($6.95)
Olivye salad ($4.95)
Veal tongue salad ($7.95)
My Ukrainian friend always loves comparing things to the "old country," and had a good time here with the brisk service, which I actually did not find all that off putting. For a Brooklyn Russian restaurant, the place is actually quite charming and welcoming. I think they don't even add that annoying service charge you usually find.
My favorite dish of the evening was the stuffed cabbage ($6.95, below), a dense block of meat, vegetables, and spices inside of some very green boiled cabbage leaves.
On their old awning and still on their menu, next to Stolovaya reads "Russian-style ravioli," a hint towards ordering fresh plates of pelmeni and/or vareniki, all priced at $4.95 for 25. We ordered a few different types, including the sour cherry version to start our paths later to dessert. These ravioli are quite small, so do not be afraid to order a good variety.
A short list of kebabs is also available, chicken and pork for $7.90, beef and lamb for $9.90. All are served in the style of any central Asian restaurant, with the boring red tomato sauce on the side.
There was a Thai amongst us, so we had a hard time not being extra curious about the "Thai chicken" that loomed large on the specials board. What arrived (below), was sort of impressive. A decently marinated moist chicken came riding in a fried tortilla boat of some sort, sprinkled with black sesames and covered in a white sauce. On the side were served peas, cabbage, and kasha. Brought us all right back to Bangkok, indeed.
Dessert was definitely a highlight, complete with both options from the menu. The spartak ($4.50) and smetanik ($4.50), of which by name I do not know the difference are above and below here, both served chilled and very creamy. If you are ordering just one, show the photo above, as it was the one we devoured despite our full bellies. Delicious.
All in all, even though my tourist visa was denied back in the 80's and I don't know the real way things were, Stolovaya probably does not pass as a viable "Soviet-style" place. Its kitschy fake retro posters are the kind found in any Williamsburg flea market. What it does pass for though is a great place for cheap Russian standards, an entirely enjoyable meal that will not come close to breaking the bank.