Outside Mari Vanna in Flatiron is a tinsel-covered Christmas tree. Inside is not the dining area of a restaurant but the dining room of a family or friend. Shabby chic decor, small-flower dotted plates, a comfy chair with a throw blanket in the corner, family photos on the walls, a hutch full of china, a sideboard with plates, and glistening chandeliers. On top of the comfortable, homey feel to the restaurant, it is decorated with garland, ornaments and Christmas trees to create a warm, festive atmosphere. The friendly and helpful staff are dressed in charming dresses patterned with flowers and cherries.
The personal touch of the sign with my name on it holding my reserved table added to the charm.
For the table, we had two types of bread, a sweet bread with nuts and raisins and a wheat bread with regular butter and dill butter.
We ordered branzini with grilled beefsteak tomatoes, asparagus and capers. This dish was a nice healthy choice, and the fish had a light flavor similar to trout.
We also got the chicken kiev with herbed butter, grilled vegetables and roasted potato. It came with salad and string potatoes, and it was very good.
I got potato vareniki with mushroom sauce and sauteed onions. (These are Russian pierogi.) They came with some sour cream, and they were delicious.
For dessert, we got poppy-seed cake with chocolate and berry sauce. The cake is dense with poppy seeds and has a thick, pasty consistency that may not be appeal to the tastes of those not familiar with it.
And blinis, Russian crepes served with sweetened condensed milk and jams. These were delicious, especially with the condensed milk.
I got strawberry smetannik, Mari Vanna’s signature dessert, a pleasant cake layered with strawberry and cream.
In addition to wonderful food, there are house-infused vodkas and martinis. I got a martini with gin, elderflower liqueur, parsley and cucumber that was very good.