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Chefs + Restaurants

The Russian Tea Room Returns


From half a block away, a guy looked toward the Russian Tea Room. He squinted at the sign. "It’s open again!" he cried joyfully. "Isn’t that wonderful? It’s like a Christmas present to New York." The Russian Tea Room, which hasn’t had great food during my lifetime, has always been one of the city’s most beloved institutions. So you have to be happy that it’s back; downstairs, it’s all red and green, just the way it was when I was a kid, only fresher, brighter. Upstairs, the new owner has polished up Warner LeRoy’s outrageous creation in all its wretched excess. Dancing bears! Chandeliers! Stained glass! This can’t be serious, right? Gary Robins, who must be getting tired of being called "one of the city’s most promising chefs," left the Biltmore Room to take over the stove here. His food is Russian, sort of, with lots of Asian-like touches. And it’s very good. His zakuski (those little Russian appetizers), are more than good; the ghosts of all those guys from the Russian Imperial Ballet, who first opened the place in 1926, must be very happy.