You’ve probably already heard, but in case you missed it, Dupont Circle is now home to a new Russian restaurant, Mari Vanna. The 1141 Connecticut Avenue NW location is the second location for the restaurant in the U.S. (the other is in New York).
Just beyond lacy curtain-draped windows, customers are transported to another world (well, at least to another country) when greeted with a list of house infused vodkas, cocktails (including Klubnichka and Pomidorchik) and authentic Russian cuisine (think pickled vegetables, cured herring and blinis).
After grabbing a seat at the bar and thumbing through the impressive cocktail list, the server made two recommendations for drinks that were not on the menu. One was a spicy beverage that used a horseradish infused vodka; the other was a refreshing martini that used cucumber and dill.
Despite not being a fan of dill (the bartender promised me it would come through more floral than “dill-like”), I ordered the latter, and happily sipped on the cocktail for the evening.
If you’re going for food, I recommend trying the traditional hand-made Russian dumplings. They come with either veal stuffing, or pork and beef stuffing, and are served with a light butter sauce. Yum.
Also on the menu are a variety of hearty soups (try the Sorrel with chicken meatballs, carrots, onions and eggs) and Pirozhok (small pies stuffed with meat, cabbage or potato).
About halfway through my first Mari Vanna experience, some clapping broke-out in the back of the restaurant. It took me a second to realize what was happening, but once I did, it made my experience complete.
An accordion player was entertaining the guests (and the staff) with some festive music. I don’t know if it was the strong martini or the friendly atmosphere, but I was very excited to see this.
One thing is for certain: don’t let the low hanging chandeliers, the oversized mirrors and the exposed brick walls fool you. Mari Vanna is not a trendy spot one should shy away from. Sure, it’s new and thus somewhat trendy-like, but the small, three-story space is incredibly warm and cozy and the staff couldn’t be more helpful and cheery if they tried.
If I had three thumbs, Mari Vanna would get them.