From Russia with Latkes

A Russian buffet in suburban Creve Coeur. Who knew?

No matter how you approach the buffet — a little of every selection, or a plateful of one — you'll be eating meat, and lots of it. I'd suppose beef stroganoff is the dish most familiar to American palates, and Astoria's doesn't disappoint. The beef is thick enough to stand up to the spicy sour cream-based sauce, tender enough that the two easily melt together in your mouth. Musaka, although related to Greek moussaka, is more reminiscent of an English pot pie, chunks of beef and potato beneath a thick brown pastry crust.

Golubtsy, cabbage leaves stuffed with ground beef, rice and herbs, have a texture and taste much like pork dumplings — in other words, they're a delicious, compulsively edible treat. My girlfriend smiled when they arrived. "My father used to make these all the time when I was a kid," she told me. It was a bittersweet moment, actually; I'd had no idea before then that we'd had a connection to this great food.

One of the servers brought a sheet cake to the Russians. They sang "Happy Birthday" in English, then saluted the birthday girl with vodka.

Disco beets: Svetlana Podrabinok's Russian restaurant doubles as a nightspot.
Jennifer Silverberg
Disco beets: Svetlana Podrabinok's Russian restaurant doubles as a nightspot.

Location Info

Map

Astoria

12949 Olive Blvd.
Creve Coeur, MO 63141

Category: Restaurant > Russian

Region: Creve Coeur

Details

Astoria
12949 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur; 314-878 -7711. Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tue.-Fri.; dinner 5-9 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

Lunch $8.95
Dinner $12.95

My girlfriend and I wandered back to the line, looking for latkes. There were none, but I found what I think is my favorite dish: honan. An Uzbek dish, according to the owner, it's ground beef layered with a thin dough like phyllo, pan-seared and so richly spiced that the beef tastes like Italian sausage. Imagine the love child of a pork dumpling and lasagna — that's honan.

Really, the only disappointment at Astoria was the dessert tray, a modest selection of pastries, none of them Russian. With a nod to our Russian neighbors — many of whom had wandered away from their table by this point — we decided to finish our meal with a round of vodka. The bracing shots eased the walk back outside to the parking lot. The air was thick with auto exhaust, cooking grease from a half-dozen restaurants and the cigarettes of several of the Russians who'd gathered outside to smoke. Our friend the opera aficionado wanted a pack of cigarettes for the road. That 7-Eleven came in handy.

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