No Need to be Rushin' Through Dinner: Dacha

My husband and I recently headed out to Dacha in Greenwich Village... sans baby. Date night, if you will.

I'll admit, it felt good to get a night out on the town without the little bambino and try something a bit different. Notably, the restaurant could clearly handle children, as there were a couple with young infants seated outdoors while we were there. We just thought we'd try to go "old school" without a toddler demanding attention as I'm trying to do a critique while simultaneously playing peek-a-boo with the menu.

We approached the restaurant with great anticipation and decided to sit inside. Then, we merely waited for our dining experience to begin. All without a sippy cup on the table!

I should note up-front that Dacha was different for us to try, because I am not overly familiar with Russian cuisine. What do Russians do differently with food? How do they prepare or spice their dishes? How could I really tell if it was authentic cuisine? I had a million questions, but I thought we should just try it and see what happens.

It's also important to mention that there were more Russians that came through the doors that evening than I had experienced elsewhere. And there were a lot of locals filling up the tables, too. That is a very positive sign when dining in any ethnic establishment. Oh - and as a sidebar: I work with Russian women. Believe me, they don't like much of anything. It seems to me that it is their culture to dislike something right away! So, with Dacha having a fair share of Russians sitting at tables, that meant, to me, that there was a level of authenticity and maybe the home style restaurant brought them some nostalgia of their home as they enjoyed the evening, too. It was comforting.

At first glance, the place seems like so many European restaurants that I have visited (I lived overseas for a number of years). The chairs and the tablecloths gave it a "home-y" kind of feel. There were smiles from the hostess when we came in and the friendliness continued, despite the level of activity that increased as the evening continued. (When we first got there, only one couple was seated outside in the humidity while my husband and I opted for the indoor table with comfy AC - but again, please keep in mind that our reservation was on the early side, so you really can't judge a restaurant's popularity at that hour. -Unless you live in South Florida where the people's average age is 89.)

The outdoor area was inviting (but not so much when it's not 105 degrees in the shade!) and indoors, you feel like you're visiting a relative in Mother Russia,  -due to the decor. I took photos, but they didn't turn out very well. You can get a very accurate picture on their website

Escargot: An Excellent Choice
Fish Plate Appetizer
We quickly ordered two appetizers: smoked and cured fish plate with blini and caviar and the escargot. The fish was quite good, but the caviar was really roe. I don't mean to be picky, but when I read caviar on a menu, that is the expectation. Roe is different. Go google the result if you don't believe that there's a major difference. There is. I should have known by the reasonable price, that it wasn't caviar! However, I did find it a bit misleading and disappointed when it arrived. However, the delicate and garlicky taste of the escargot appetizer quickly made up for any faux pas on the menu. The escargots were tender and exceptionally flavorful. The added artichoke heart gave the dish an extra texture and a level of taste that was simply sublime.

Pelmini Moscow
My main dish was Pelmeni Moscow. It arrived to the table in a very rustic baking dish that was piping hot. It was listed on the menu of being a type of chicken dumpling with egg and cheese -which once it arrived, I found that it was more like an all-meat tortellini. That is not a bad thing, it is just in the description, when the word "dumpling" is used, it conjures up a completely different expectation. It was covered in a cheese and egg mixture that was decorously browned.

My husband ordered the Cornish game hen and garlic fries. It was also served in a very homestyle fashion and the portion was more than adequate. The waitress had noted that the garlic fries reminded her of her grandmother's own style of cooking, and we were enthusiastically surprised with the aromatic, crispy arrangement that was plated before us.

The herbs were also exceptionally fresh on all of the dishes. We liked the different taste that Russian food offers: it is something that I sincerely find difficult to try to explain (which is not ideal when you are trying to write a critical food blog!). The spices they use are staples in other cuisines, as they have an international influence in their rich history, but they taste differently, as they use them in diverse or atypical combinations. I found that mild spicy-sweet seemed to be a trend while we dined at Dacha. We also observed that the servings here were -across the board- enormous!

We went on to sample desserts and coffee, and were delighted by the parfait. It was not as expected. I was hesitant because, again, the description in the menu made it sound completely different.

I think that is my only recommendation to the owners of Dacha: find much better, more succinct descriptions for your menu. I make a point to ask the server what they recommend -especially when I am at a real loss about what to order. Our waitress was really knowledgeable and very helpful in that regard. But, what about someone else dining there? The menu is just confusing the customer who is not familiar with the cuisine (and that was us!).

Overall, I would recommend readers of this blog to try out Dacha for something a little different and also very pleasant. Ask your servers for any help with the menu choices and be open to some new, fresh flavors. You can enjoy a little Russia right here in the city at an enjoyable pace, without the long flight or the cumbersome train ride to Brighton Beach.

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