On my first day at my job (years and years ago), one of my co-workers asked if I play chess....maybe because my name is Russian? Another co-worker has been asking me about Russian restaurants in the area for years.
Yes, I'm Russian. But I don't drink vodka, don't really hang out exclusively with other Russians and don't really seek out Russian food, although I do cook it from time to time.
However, when one of my co-workers told me about a newish restaurant in Arlington that serves Russian food, I was eager to check it out.
And that is how my friend Jenn and I found ourselves at Cafe Assorti last Saturday. The place was decorated in sunny yellow and orange colors with hints of green. It was spacious, warm and casual.
We decided to order a few dishes to share.
First on the list: Vegetarian Salad “Vinegret” 4.95 beets, potatoes, kosher dills, marinated cabbage and carrots.
I've made Vinegret in the past but not with marinated cabbage. The salad was fresh, pretty to look at and enough as an appetizer to share.
For our second appetizer, we ordered Borsch for 5.25. I was a bit nervous about trying this beet soup. Why? Because I'm accustomed to my dad's borsch. Any time I visit my family in Seattle, there is a big pot of borsch waiting for me in the refrigerator. My dad spends literally hours chopping, sauteeing, and simmering the soup. We top it with either mayonnaise or sour cream, fresh dill and chopped garlic.
Before ordering borsch at Assorti, I asked if their version was served hot or cold: hot. I would have preferred cold soup since it was 90 degrees outside, but this wasn't my kitchen.
The soup came accompanied by a bit of sour cream and was made with meat! We usually make our borsch just with vegetables. As soon as I saw mini puddles of oil floating on the surface of the soup, I knew I was onto something good: that's how my dad's soup looks. And I was right! The soup was meaty, the vegetables were tender, and the flavor was rich. Jenn liked it too!
For the main course we ordered Pelmeni 10.95 (15 small steamed dumplings with beef filling, served with sour cream). The beef flavor was dead on, but the dough was a bit thick for my taste. I also asked for a little dish of ketchup as I like to mix sour cream and ketchup together (you can do the same with mayonnaise and ketchup). The other way to serve pelmeni is with oil and vinegar.
The service was courteous, the food was solid good and we were quite full, but decided to check out the dessert selection. Alas, most of the desserts weren't Russian at all, although they were pretty. So we ended up getting what did look Russian: vatrushka.
I asked our waiter to heat up the pastry and he obliged. The sweet cheese has the consistency of ricotta. The pastry was delicious and a perfect way to end our meal at Assorti. I'd definitely come back.
A few administrative notes:
1) Please remember to enter my 2 year anniversary Mango/Tomato recipe contest for a chance to win $50 in gift cards and a set of plates from Marx Foods (the deadline is June 30th)
2) My recipe for vinegret is in the 55 Knives cook book. Check it out ;)