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for October 9, 2002


This Is Merely An Assimilation
by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman

What do you call a restaurant that stays open until 2 a.m. on Friday nights, offers fantastic Russian food without an excursion to Brighton Beach, and the kind of accidentally hilarious floor show diners should have to show a doctor's note to see? "Your Praline's new favorite" - that's what.
 
Your Darling, Your Diva, Your One True Love felt a hankering for something different, so her charming consort found a little Russian restaurant in the wilds of Spotswood, NJ. Its title - Moscow on the Hudson - hearkens back to a Robin Williams-Yakov Smirnov eighties film. Ask your parents. Anyway, the InJersey reviewers failed to review, and no other reference to how good or how dreadful it might be could be found.
 
This meant we HAD to go. We went twice, because the first time we drove away asking if that really happened.
 
First, the decor is very unusual in Central New Jersey. In the twenty-first century. Your redheaded friends will complement the wall treatment. The dining room looks like an entire wedding party stuffed hors d'ouvres into their pockets and bolted for the kitchen. We expected to hear giggling, but we didn't. There were ketchup bottles on every table. The menu featured three pages of appetizers with Cyrillic titles and terse English descriptions. Entrees were listed in a slightly less cryptic fashion, many accompanied by a choice of rice, kasha or french fries. But it was an adventure, yes? At least we now knew what the ketchup was for. The good news: appetizers and entrees are tasty, served quickly and in generous proportions. You know exactly what you'll be heating for tomorrow's breakfast.
 
The better news: Your Strawberry Cream meant "proportions." Trout baked in puff pastry was so enormous it should have been backed up to the table on a beeping fork lift. Big. Really Big. Embarrassingly big food, beautifully prepared and nicely spiced. Mysteriously, lamb kebab came on the sticks God gave them, but no one wanted to stop chewing long enough to argue fine points. In fact, the second time we went, we took pity on the entertainers and grudgingly put down our utensils to clap.
 
"My Almond Turtle," you beseech, "what has this to do with Altrok? With music? Does the kasha come with mushroom gravy?" My Pets, we could not believe our eyes when the dinner entertainment was a leather-clad gentleman singing in English and Spanish, and an exotic beauty who sang in Russian. We think. Both landing parties encountered nearly empty restaurants with only one other group in attendance. This places diners in the strange position of being sung to, possibly in a language one flunked in eighth grade, while disco lights flash everywhere and the waitstaff asks why you would know about kasha if you're not Russian. Never underestimate the eye-tearing, choke-inducing potential of taking a really delicious bite of seafood blintz when a man wearing an erstwhile cow tears into "Feelings." The "band" performed just about every song Your Creamy Caramel hoped never to hear again but in these circumstances cackled at, and yes, if you ask for it, the kasha will come with mushroom gravy.
 
Now, Russian restaurants are usually smoky, and with dinner, one drinks a great deal. Moscow on the Hudson doesn't have a liquor license. The second time, we went armed with tacky merlots to match Your Nougat's manicure and clash with the walls. When we asked if we could smoke, we were presented with ashtrays and told we could do anything we wanted. Fortunately, we merely wanted to order dessert and Turkish coffee.
 
Your Assorted Chocolates unreservedly recommends Moscow on the Hudson, and hopes you too love it. Shhhh! It's the kind of place you could bring anyone from Grandma to your new roommate - and they'll find something to like. Let's hope it's not the pre-programmed synthesizer playing "Hotel California."
 

©2002 Robin Pastorio-Newman

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.

 







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