This is part two of our detailed exploration of the traditionally Russian/Eastern European neighborhood of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.
Restaurants mentioned in this post:
1) Varenichnaya (Ukrainian)
3086 Brighton 2nd St
(between Brighton Beach Ave & Brightwater Ct)
Brooklyn, NY 11235
2) Kebeer (Uzbek)
1003 Brighton Beach Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11235
Based on the recommendation of a friend of a friend, we found ourselves at Varenichnaya. There were maybe eight tables in the whole place, a total hole in the wall a little off the main drag. Inside, we enjoyed Russian pop music videos. The vinyl walls were adorned with kitsch including oil paintings, wood carvings and a kind of adorable clock whose hands were made of a fork and knife. Right off the bat, I have to remind you that the pelmeni with broth that I wrote about in the pel’meni post two weeks ago was the best thing we ate all day.
We couldn’t be in a place called Varenichnaya without ordering the varenyky. Like pel’meni, varenyky are little stuffed dumplings, although according to Wikipedia this type of dumpling is typically associated with Ukrainian cuisine whereas pel’meni are traditionally associated with Russian cuisine. Also, the varenyky we saw were all vegetable-filled whereas many of the pelmeni have some sort of meat filling involved. Varenyky are bigger and thicker-skinned than their diminutive cousins. The ones we enjoyed were rich and so savory.
There were six different varieties of varenyky on the menu. All the word means is “boiled thing” and sometimes they aren’t even boiled. In the case of the ones we ate this day, they were stuffed with fried cabbage, and then fried themselves. For good measure, they were thrown overboard and drowned in a sea of butter. They were served up in a golden pool of butter, no life preserver.
The best decor element was probably this stuffed bird, which completely startled the friend I was eating with when he turned around.
I felt like I needed Windex for my face by the time I was done eating here, but I left a very happy Emily.
We ran around to a bunch of markets during the day (I can’t wait to you about them in a future post), but the last restaurant-type place we enjoyed on this visit was Kebeer. Kebeer is actually a capacious Uzbek beer hall with tons of German, Belgian and Czech beers on the list.
I was excited to see one of my favorite beers, Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock on the list, and I definitely knocked one back with some additional greasy nibbles.
Recommended eats for our visit at Kebeer included samsa, chebureki and plov (some of which aren’t on the menu, but the cooks there will happily make them by request).
Samsa and chebureki are variations on a theme – each of them feature fried dough stuffed with spiced meat. (See a pattern yet? This is great winter food.) For the chebureki, the closest thing I can approximate them to are Jamaican beef patties or Columbian arepas.
Along with our beer, we also enjoyed samsa. You can see in the photo above that these smaller fried pockets of dough (in this case, it was phyllo dough) filled with what tasted like liver and topped with black sesame seeds. Samsa are much closer to Indian samosas, which probably accounts for the similarities in their names.
Oooh, look, something shiny. Can we talk about the beer wall? This was going down the steps to the restroom.
Lest you think we were not being good tourists of Little Russia, please know there was vodka.
This post is up today because our regularly scheduled Thursday post will include a special announcement. Be sure to come back tomorrow to read what Mouth of the Border has cooking.
If you can’t get enough of this meaty Russian stuff, here are some other posts you may enjoy. Happy eating!
Check out more food photos on Flickr: Mouth of the Border 2: Russian Food Part 2
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