Although Eastern European fare is not new to Reno, Bazaar European Deli & Cafe aims to supply a healthy variety of foodstuffs from the steppes. There are refrigerated deli cases with an array of meats, smoked fish, cheeses and prepared foods. Baked goods, ranging from breads to desserts, are plentiful. There’s some fresh produce and a large collection of frozen items.
The cafe offers a variety of coffee, beer, wine and specialty drinks, sandwiches and other dishes. There’s also an array of condiments, garnishes and an enormous amount of sweet treats—apparently the peoples of the former U.S.S.R. really love their candied goodies.
I’m guessing most Americans who’ve heard of or experienced borscht probably associate it with Russia, and the folks in Moscow do love a good bowl of beet stew. However, it’s centuries-old origin lies in Ukraine as a sour stew of meat and hogweed root (also known as cow parsnip). It wasn’t until perhaps the 18th century that the Poles introduced beetroot as the primary ingredient, eventually replacing the original completely.
There are hundreds of variations on borscht amongst Slavic peoples and throughout Eastern Europe—some skipping beets entirely—but the bowl served at Bazaar was a tasty classic ($4.99). Beet juice was stewed with chunks of beef, then combined with sauteed cabbage, carrot, beets, herbs and other seasonings. The dill was a noticeable presence. The bowl was served nice and warm with a dollop of sour cream in the center. Served with a few slices of rye bread, this was some serious comfort food.
Blinchiki—Russian crepes—are much like the Swedish pancakes I grew up with, a bit thicker and softer in texture than a French crepe. We sampled the four varieties offered—sweet ($6), farmer’s cheese ($6.50), red caviar ($7.50) and smoked salmon ($7.50). Each order came with two rolled crepes and a dollop of sour cream.
The sweet crepes were topped with a raspberry spread, while the cheese rolls were filled with something akin to ricotta; both plates were sprinkled with powdered sugar. The red caviar and smoked salmon plates were sprinkled with dill, parsley and scallion. Although just a few tablespoons of fish eggs adorned the caviar plate, that was plenty. The strongly fishy and salty flavors were barely cut by the pancake and sour cream. I like anchovies, fish eggs and the like—but, man, that stuff packs a punch.
Siberian style pelmeni dumplings ($6.99) stuffed with pork and beef were served in a very light broth with herbs and sour cream, perhaps one of the most satisfying dumpling dishes I’ve tried. This was followed by two salads, shuba and olivier.
The shuba ($3.19) is a layered rectangle of shredded potato, carrot, beets, onion, egg and herring, dressed with mayonnaise and seasoned with salt and pepper. The flavors worked pretty well together, but the texture wasn’t my favorite. Olivier salad ($2.69)—also known simply as Russian salad—is a mayonnaise-dressed mix of boiled and diced potato, carrot, dill pickle, green pea, egg, celeriac, onion and meat, seasoned with salt, pepper and mustard. We asked what the meat was, and the chef said, “No meat. Bologna.” Well, sure. I’m OK with that.