Borscht and Small Talk; Restaurant Serves as a Russian Island in Manhattan

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On a recent Friday night, Mikhail Baryshnikov sat regally at an upstairs table in the Russian Samovar, patiently giving an interview to a writer from Vogue.

— Timothy L. O'Brien

New York's Russian Samovar Is As Much A Nostalgia Trip As A Fine Russian Restaurant

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Outside of Brooklyn's gargantuan Russian banquet halls—where the flow of vodka makes up for the taste of the food—Russian restaurants in New York are few and far between. In Manhattan, along with the Russian Tea Room, which opened in 1927, Russian Samovar is one of the keepers of a Russian culinary flame, serving both the cuisine of the Tzarist aristocracy—with plenty of smoked salmon and caviar—along with dishes enjoyed by Russia's common people, like pelmeni dumplings in broth and both cold and hot borscht.

Russian Samovar is a nostalgic throwback whose colors and decor evokes a Pre-Putin Russia.
— John Mariani

Eartheater Takes Over Russian Samovar for Chemical X Holiday Party

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Saturday in Manhattan, bundled city kids load into a heated vestibule at Russian Samovar on 52nd, waiting to be let into the two-story restaurant that glows with a cherry-red light. An old-world glamour emanates from the 19th-century Russian relics that adorn the walls: red and green tasseled lampshades, polished brass teapots, antique mirrors, vintage folk prints and stacks of classic books.

Eartheater Takes Over Russian Samovar for Chemical X Holiday Party.
— Alessandra Schade

New York's Russian Restaurants Feel War's Impact

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Most owners are antiwar, and many of them are from Ukraine. But customer numbers are down all the same.

Russian Samovar
— Alyson Krueger

Caroline Calloway Will Paint You at Her Party Is the Russian Samovar the new China Chalet?

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This week I played with fire. Quite literally, I got sloshed on the Fourth and lit up some sparklers, but I also spent Thursday night with Caroline Calloway at a party she co-hosted, along with The Drunken Canal and other members of the new downtown pandemic-erati, at the Russian Samovar on West 52nd Street. It was thrown by the Ion Pack, a duo of anonymous film boys with a meme page and a podcast about movies and, in the words of a Criterion Collection employee I met that night, “Lower East Side culture.”

Calloway with her calla lilies
— Brock Colyar


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Russian Samovar, the Midtown Theater District restaurant, is known as much for its unique cuisine as it is for it's support of the arts. Think Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Puskin, and you'll get a feel for the atmosphere. A classically trained pianist performs nightly along with other acts, and poetry readings are held throughout the year.

Russian Samovar Restaurant
— Keith Girard


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In a city renowned for its ethnic restaurants, Russian Samovar is unique in its long-standing ties with the art community; it has become a home for many famous Russian poets and writers who keep coming back for the exceptional dining experience. Owned by Roman Kaplan and managed by his daughter Vlada Von Shats and her two sons Michael and Nicholas, this elegant, upscale establishment offers exquisite Russian cuisine in New York. Located in the Theater District, Russian Samovar boasts a 19th-century feel, complete with picturesque green and red shades and Russian folk prints.

Russian samovar interior
— Elizabeth Darwen

The Place of the Flavored Vodkas

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“The Russian Samovar: The Place of the Flavored Vodkas,” read the TV screens above the bar: an apt summary, and a reprimand to anyone ordering beer. Horseradish is the vodka of men; ginger is a crowd-pleaser; pomegranate has a reputation as the girlie vodka. Last Tuesday, in honor of the restaurant's twenty-fifth anniversary, friends of the proprietor Roman Kaplan gathered to pay tribute and drink from his array of flavored vodkas.

— Molly Fischer

Best Bar for Drinking Vodka With the Russian Intelligentsia

There are bars that have many designer bottles on the menu and will fix you a cold martini, but for those who take it straight, the city's original infused-vodka bar is still the place to pound a shot of liquid garlic, horseradish, coriander, or any of nineteen other flavors in murky decanters. Roman Kaplan, the burly bon vivant who has owned the Samovar since 1986 (well before the Russian Vodka Room set up shop across the street, and don't get him started on it) has played gregarious host to friends like Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, and Susan Sontag. Over the years, a who's-who of expat artists, novelists, musicians, and even hockey players has filled the narrow red-and-green-tinged room with Russian chatter and the doodles and poems that hang on the walls. Kaplan shuttles smokers and friends past the white baby grand where Alexander Izbitser has played for over fifteen years and up to a private room with the air of a St. Petersburg salon. As for the food, follow the advice Joseph Brodsky once wrote in the menu: “You won't be erring by ordering the herring” and “beef Stroganoff if you're strong enough.”

Russian Samovar

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There are two main reasons people go to the Russian Samovar: to drink house-infused vodkas in semiprecious hues (horseradish, coriander, cranberry, pear, and many more) and to see Roman Kaplan, a gregarious and worldly native of St. Petersburg, who opened the restaurant nearly twenty years ago. (His friends Mikhail Baryshnikov and the late Joseph Brodsky both invested at some point.) Kaplan is one of those genial spirits who seem to know—or want to get to know—everyone.

— Dana Goodyear