By Melissa Groth
Step into Mari Vanna and step into a different world. The atmosphere is homey and comforting; family photos line the walls and tchotchkes adorn quaint antique cabinets and tables. It is an ideal environment to enjoy a cozy fall meal.
The fall menu at Mari Vanna is a mix of unexpected and traditional dishes. The pumpkin soup is something you’d perhaps expect to find on a fall menu most places, but don’t let that prevent you from ordering it. This soup is topped with yummy toasted pumpkin seeds, served in a homemade bread bowl, and though it is made without heavy cream it is velvety and rich and incredibly flavorful.
Order the adjarski khachapuri (or just point to it on the menu) for your cheese and bread fix. Anyone who has ever cracked an egg over pizza will love this. It’s a “pie,” or, perhaps more accurately described as a bread bowl, filled with gooey cheese and topped with a semi-baked egg. Mix the egg and the cheese and tear off a piece of bread-bowl to dip in the sinfully delicious mixture.
Another traditional dish you’ll see on the fall menu is the perogi; in this case it’s a handmade cabbage vareniki, served with sour cream. If you’re craving something crispier, order the chebureki– two beef-stuffed pan-fried pastries served with a mild, cream based sauce and a spicier (but only slightly) tomato based sauce. The dish comes with a glass of tomato juice to complement the flavors, which it does nicely with a tangy finish to the savory, herbed meat pastry.
The lambchops shashlik, marinated and seared, is beautifully plated over sauteed greens and perfectly tender eggplant. The farm salad is served in a clay pot as though it were picked right from the garden to put on your plate (they even crumble bread crumbs over top to look like dirt). It would be gimmicky if it wasn’t so damn earnest. Besides, the vegetables are incredibly fresh and the herbs and sunflower oil dressing make this unassuming salad pretty amazing.
If you’re not quite ready for dessert yet, test some of the house-infused vodkas. My favorite was the horseradish vodka. But if you like vodka with your dessert, they’ve got you covered with sweet options like cranberry or black currant.
For dessert, pumpkin blinis are drizzled in chocolate, topped with crunchy pumpkin seeds and served with vanilla ice cream. The pumpkin flavor is subtle, and the dessert is not super sweet; rather, its combination of textures make it worth trying. Not enough pumpkin for you? Try the pumpkin infused vodka. If you’ve got more of a sweet tooth, the apple strudel is a must-try. The pastry is oven baked and served with a scoop of ice cream to let melt over each delicious bite. Adding to the homey atmosphere is a menu item just like your babushka would give you– cookies and milk. Yep, you can embrace your inner child with a little wooden chest of cookies and glass of milk. Cute, but I’d opt for the strudel.
Get out of the cold and pop into Mari Vanna for a little bit of the old and a little bit of the new, and a lot of great flavors.