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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Welcome to the Russian Tea House. Leave Your Card at the Door.

If there is an institution that has consistently endeavored to preserve traditional culture and culinary code of classic Russian cuisine, it is unquestionably the mystical opulent, and recently resurected Russian Tea House of New York.
The story of the Rise and Fall ...and again Rise of the Russian Tea Room is a long and colorful one. The fabled club like hideaway was first opened in 1927 by former members of the Russian Imperial Ballet, initially as a meeting place for Russian expatriates. It soon became a popular gathering spot for well known performing artists. It is not certain if the original owner of the tea house was Jacob Zysman or Albertina Rasch. By 1933, the Siberian émigré Alexander Maeef was running the Russian Tea Room and was the main personality associated with the restaurant for the next fifteen years. In 1981, it fell into the hands of industrial developer, Harry R. Macklowe.

In December 1996, Warner LeRoy, owner of the Tavern on the Green, bought the restaurant from Stewart-Gordon for $6.5 million and closed it down. However, after four years and having spent $36 million in renovations, he reopened it. Unfortunately, his grande plan or reintroducing the 'elegance of old' flopped and the Tea Room closed abruptly in July of 2002 (declaring bankruptcy in the process). LeRoy's health was failing. Also, the local economy did not recover quickly enough to make payments on the substantial loans for the renovations. After Warner LeRoy died, his estate sold the property for $16 million to the United States Golf Association in December 2002*.

The Russian Tea Room reopened in November of 2006. The restaurant's interior has been left in tact and 'the over-the-top' decor instituted by LeRoy, remains the same as when he closed it in 2002. Upon observing the majestic history of this treasured New York landmark, time reveals that you can't keep a good man (or woman) down. By the way, Canaegie Hall's next door.

What to Drink At the Russian Tea House:

In addition to its famous list of 40 vodkas, cocktails also fare splendidly. Though it may feel corny to order, the Moscow Mule delivers a gingery kick in the pants. The Cavitini comes with a cucumber slice topped with 10 grams of wild American Hackleback caviar floating over chilled Imperia vodka. Other cocktails of note include the Cosmonaut and Ivan the Terrible.

For Lunch:

The a la carte lunch menu includes dishes like the Burger Pojarski ($25) and a caviar omelet ($28). There's also a $35 three-course "business express" lunch.

For a caviar treat watch this video featuring RTR Chefs, Taxiera and Moldovan:

Personally, I've not visited the Russian Tea Room, but here are a number of comments of those who have:

Stewart-Gordon, Faith (1999). The Russian Tea Room: A Love Story. New York: Scribner.
ISBN 0-4-85981-5.

Happiest regards,


  1. Thanks for the great post! Sounds like a great place.

  2. Thanks Jon,

    You'll have to check it out with your Mom and Sis when you're on the East Coast. Would love to hear your review.

  3. A good read Marcia. It's nice to see you're very passionate about what you do, keep it up!