Restaurant Russia
6433 SE Foster

At Restaurant Russia, I ordered a meat platter appetizer for $7 that promised cuts of sausage and pork. Instead, a plate of thinly sliced fish arrived--herring, salmon, sardines--with spines and bones still intact. It was as if the fish had been run, still alive, through a Cuisinart.

Unlike Thai and Chinese restaurants that smooth off the sharp edges of cultural differences, Restaurant Russia is unapologetic. I can't guarantee every visit will be the full cultural immersion that we enjoyed/suffered, but what made the evening overwhelming was that we stumbled into a reception dinner for a Russian wedding. A bearish, middle-aged man was showing off his sprightly and much younger bride to his friends. They ordered the baby roasted pig--an entire swine splayed on a silver platter and laced with lemons ($85, call ahead to order it). When the plate arrived, the groom chopped off the frowning head of the pig and paraded it around like some communistic Lord of the Flies ritual.

Our dinner was much more tame. Most dishes are composed of potatoes, cabbage, or beef stock; food for the Siberian winter. A plate of beef stroganoff arrived without the customary noodles, but ladled on top of a plate of creamy mashed potatoes. ($8.95; Thumbs up!) Because I don't have a Russian font on my computer, I'll just refer to the other dish that we ordered as "Russian Potpie." In a tall clay cylinder with buttery crust cascading over the edges, the potpie looked like an overflowing beer stein. It was dark and mysterious, stuffed full of potatoes, and saturated in inky beef sauce, and like most dishes at Restaurant Russia, the pot pie struck a midpoint between quality and quantity.

It cost forty dollars for a dinner for two, and it was the closest I'll probably ever get to Moscow. Not bad.