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" -
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
©2002 Robin Pastorio-Newman
All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.
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