One of the worst meals I ever had was at a super-expensive (now defunct) Ukrainian restaurant in London that seemed to be trying to entice émigré oligarchs with a taste of home cooking (if mamma used to make soup of tepid water and vegetables, that is). Fortunately, I subsequently discovered the delights of Eastern European and Russian cooking, much of which is based on peasant dishes where the focus is on good ingredients, something Portland obviously does well. The city benefits from an array of excellent food from the former Soviet territories (there are 100,000 immigrants in Oregon from the ex-USSR, after all)—just this week, Russian-born chef Vitaly Paley announced that he will be turning the Portland Penny Diner into a Russian-themed restaurant called DaNet every second Thursday of the month.
Hit the jump for a quick round up of the best the city has to offer from the former Soviet empire— and let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorites!
DaNet: Paley will be offering a five-course dinner for $65 that draws on his family’s recipes, featuring zakuski (a type of Russian tapas), dumplings and piroshki (stuffed buns), plus there will be a drinks list focused (obviously) on vodka. June 12, July 10, August 14. Portland Penny Diner, 410 SW Broadway
Kachka: Recently opened Russian restaurant and vodka bar that focuses on small-sized zakuski plates, though they also offer a few mains (chicken Kiev, stroganoff and other traditional favorites). Kachka, 720 Grand Ave
Traditional Russian Cuisine: The name says it all—a food cart offering tasty blinis, dumplings, piroshki and kebabs, all at reasonable prices. Traditional Russian Cuisine, SE 102nd & Starck
Restaurant Uzbekistan: Russian-Uzbeki restaurant that has well-priced, authentic dishes—try the pelmeni, a Russian version of ravioli, or the Uzbek plov, a local rice pilaf with boiled and friend meats and vegetables. Restaurant Uzbekistan, 18488 E Burnside
Kargi Gogo: A downtown Georgian food cart that makes traditional stuffed bread (either cheese or bean and onion) that alone make a great snack. Also to try are khinkali (delicate dumplings) and badrijani (eggplant, walnut and garlic rolls). If only they had a license to sell Georgian wines! Kargi Gogo, Food Cart Pod, SW Washington between 9th & 10th
Russian Elegance Food: An unassuming, but fantastic bakery making authentic Russian bread and cakes, as well as offering imported goods, piroshki and deli meats. Russian Elegance Food, 10121 NE Glisan
Roman Russian Food Store: Another store you could walk by without a second glance, but you’d miss a wonderland of Russian/Ukrainian foods including meats, cheese, pickles, bread and wood-fired pizza. Roman Russian Food Store, 10918 SE Division