Russian Roulette

Russian groceries, including imported sodas, are the most tempting offerings at Moscow Market and Deli.

Russian groceries, including imported sodas, are the most tempting offerings at Moscow Market and Deli.

Photo By David Robert

There’s nothing quite as frustrating as something that initially garners affection but ultimately proves to be disappointing. Such was my experience with Moscow Market and Deli. This place has a lot going for it: pleasant ambience, friendly service, a unique niche—but I must admit that I was not happy with my meal.

The initial impression is quite charming. With the pretty, red curtains and the walls tightly decorated with old-world prints, stuffed wolves and babushkas, it has the ambience of a cozy Russian cottage. There’s a variety of products with Russian labels: cookies, canned goods, unusual cheeses and cream spreads as well as books and DVDs. The deli case has a variety of deli meats, and there’s also a case of enticing pastries and cakes. I later learned that all the baked goods are imported from a New York bakery.

The courteous woman who helped us had a distinctly Russian accent, and there was an older couple in the back that kept bickering in the language (though they might have just been having a pleasant conversation—admittedly, the language sounds intrinsically harsh to American ears that first heard it spoken by villains in Cold-War movies).

I asked the woman behind the counter for a lunchtime recommendation. “Pelmini,” she said. “A lot of places have sandwiches, but here you can try a traditional Russian dish.” She went on to describe pelmini as the Russian equivalent of ravioli.

The prospect of having a traditional Russian meal had my stomach growling in anticipation. I ordered the chicken pelmini ($4) and a cup of Ukrainian borsch ($3). Despite the recommendation, Danielle, my girlfriend, panicked at the prospect of finding something vegetarian on the menu and ordered a cheese sandwich ($3). Afterwards, I pointed out that there were other vegetarian options on the menu, such as the large potato dumplings, vareniki ($4.50).

We wanted to order fruit blintzes, but they were out of stock. We did split a tasty Russian pear soda ($1.45), and Danielle picked out a cream-filled napoleon ($2.00) from the display case.

We sat down in the quaint sitting area and began with dessert, the napoleon. It was fairly good, and I anticipated the rest of the meal.

I was crestfallen when the food arrived in Styrofoam bowls on plastic trays. Though borsch, a beet soup served with sour cream, often gets a bad rap, I really like it and enjoyed it here, despite the Styrofoam.

The pelmini, on the other hand, didn’t impess me. The chicken dumplings were simply bland and slightly acrid—the kind of food that necessitates heavy doses of condiments. Danielle’s sandwich was just mustard and cheese on thin, white sandwich bread.

After our disheartening meal, we took a closer look around the mini-market. Though I was disappointed (and not really surprised) to find the same pelmini pre-packaged in the freezer, there are some gems to be found in the market, and we left with a big bag of Russian candies.

Moscow Market and Deli is worth a visit, if only to check out what a convenience store of Russia might be like and to stock up on specialty products—but it’s just disappointing the lunch isn’t better.