Friday, March 29, 2013

Moscow On The Hill – St. Paul, MN

D.Rough and I wanted something a little bit different. We hadn’t been to Moscow On The Hill since my birthday the precious year, so we headed there for some delicious Russian food and drinks. They had changed the inside atmosphere into something a bit more glamorous than the last time. D.Rough actually commented on it to the server by saying, “Oh, you got rid of your old Russian lady shawls and funeral feel! It’s so nice in here now.” I think the server was amused by this – I know I was.

We scoured the drink menu for a bit – if you haven’t been there, this place is all about the vodka. They make their own and they also have tons of other varieties. They claim to have the largest vodka selection in the United States. I ended up with a girly cocktail called the Carousel – house-made cherry, raspberry, citrus, and pear vodkas, sweet and sour, and cranberry juice. D.Rough got the Pear Pressure – house-made pear vodka, Ace pear cider, and ginger beer. Both were absolutely delicious. They take pride in their house-made vodkas and they are very smooth, without any artificial/fake fruit flavors in them.

Dinner was very difficult to decide on, as everything sounds tasty. They have very unique things on the menu like escargot, Lamb Cheboureki, Babuska Stew, Chicken Kiev, and Duck Breast Ekaterina. Stuff you aren’t likely to find at a lot of restaurants in the Twin Cities. We got an order of Moscow Fries – a basket of dill potatoes with some dipping sauces – for an appetizer. I wasn’t thrilled about this, in all honesty - it really didn't seem like a fries kind of place. And we thought we’d split an order of Siberian Pelmeni (hand-made dumplings) – beef, pork, and wild rice dumplings, steamed and butter-brushed and served with sour cream. These, I was very excited about!. And since I had never had it before, I got a bowl of Borscht – a traditional Russian beet, cabbage, and potato soup.

The Borscht came out first. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have heard this soup is served both hot and cold, so I wasn’t sure what I’d get. I’d also seen this soup in ethnic grocery stores before and frankly, it didn’t look appealing to me. But there was nothing jarred about this soup. It was very home-made and actually looked quite appetizing. It was served hot and after the first bite, I was hooked. The red color of the broth comes from the beets, but it isn’t particularly strong like many pickled beets are. The potatoes were in chunks and the beets were shredded. There was a lot of dill flavor and the dollop of sour cream was already dyed red. It came with a slice of thick course bread that went very well with the soup. I would order this again in a second. It was one of the better soups I’ve ever had.

The basket of potatoes came out next. A really LARGE basket of potaotes, actually. As I said, I wasn’t excited about these. But I should have been. They were thin sliced potatoes deep fried almost crispy and then covered with generous salt and dill. They were perfectly cooked and amazing. Not soggy, but not crunchy. The dipping sauces were also wonderful – a sour cream and dill dip, a [some Russian word with c’s and j’s and z’s]-aioli dip, and a tomato based dip. We ended up asking for a replacement of the aioli since it was our favorite and we went through the small cup they brought us before we were halfway through the large basket of chips.

The Siberian Pelmeni were quite good. The thick doughy wrapper held together nicely after it was steamed and the flavor of the ground meat inside was good. There was plenty of seasoning in the meat and it went well with the sour cream that came on top of the dish. Only one of the dumplings fell apart when we picked it up, although cutting the meatball in half proved to be quite a challenge, since they were slippery on the outside and the inside. As a warning there are a TON of these dumplings in this bowl. We were both stuffed by the end of it. I remember the Peasant Pelmeni having a bit more flavor than this more plain version – the Peasant ones have a mushroom sauce with some cheese to add a bit more complexity to the dumplings. That being said, I still enjoyed the Siberian Pelmeni very much.

Across the board, we were very happy with our meal and we are glad we went. We will be back, without question and look forward to our next dinner there. Maybe we’ll take an afternoon and try out a flight or two of their various vodkas. That always makes for some lively conversations!

Top 5 things about Moscow On The Hill
1. Borscht
2. Moscow Fries
3. Carousel
4. Atmosphere
5.Siberian Pelmeni

Bottom 5 things
1. Moscow isn’t cheap – just a heads up
2. Lots and lots of dill, thankfully we both like dill
3. We finished up before awesome happy hour started at 9pm
4. I wish the borscht came with more pieces of bread
5. Sooooo full afterwards

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