These kinks may be worked out in the future, but for now, the Russian Tea Room is a place to go if you have a deep pocketbook and a taste for the faded, quirky grandeur of old New York. You can still addle yourself with the Tea Room’s famous drink, the Moscow Mule (a mixture of vodka and ginger beer, now priced at a staggering $20), and if old New York restaurants were bedeviled on occasion with erratic and spotty service, you’ll find that here too. During one of my visits, we waited 30 minutes between courses for our food, which may have been why, when the desserts finally did arrive, we were on our knees with gratitude. My baba au rhum didn’t seem to have quite enough rum in it, but the apple tart was chewy and well caramelized, and crowned with a tuile made of spun sugar. And then there were the blintzes. One was stuffed with sour cream, the other with stewed cherries. Together, they produced an almost perfect combination of tart and sweet and were a pleasant reminder that sometimes the most gratifying gourmet dishes are the simplest, and oldest, of all.
The Russian Tea Room
Address: 150 W. 57th St., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-581-7100
Hours: Lunch, Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner, Monday through Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m., Sunday to 10 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers, $16 to $22; entrées, $32 to $48.
Ideal meal: Goat-cheese-and-mushroom blinchiki, beef stroganoff or pork tenderloin, cherry and sour-cream blintzes.
Note: Go ahead, spend $300 on 30 grams of Iranian special-reserve caviar. We think the Carolina rainbow-trout variety (30 grams for $25) tastes just fine.
Scratchpad: The room is nice, and the chef has multi-star talent. But the inflated prices and spotty execution knock everything down a few notches.