Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bits & Morsels

Veselka Bowery's Blintz.

by Erin Frankel

Veselka Bowery. The number of Eastern European restaurants opening in New York may have slowed down, starting about 40 years ago, but New York still remains one of the best and most authentic Eastern European food-friendly cities around.

That said, when you think of Eastern European life, NOHO is not the first neighborhood to come to mind. But, this is where Veselka (open since 1954 and still booming) — the East Village staple serving hearty, soulful Ukrainian cuisine — has opened a new, modern outpost called Veselka Bowery.
From the outside looking in.
Veselka Bowery, a contemporary version of the original.
When you think of Eastern European cuisine, the words "snug" and "kitsch" can come to mind. However, Veselka Bowery's newest location is everything you would never expect out of the last survivors of the borscht belt. It is large, minimalist, modern, serene, and flooded with sunlight through its floor-to-ceiling glass-panel walls.

Let's put it this way, if you're a fan of Veselka's sensational pierogi, this is your new go-to spot. The cuisine is simply a refined version of many of the old Veselka favorites. Try any one of the new Veselka's pierogies (Varenyky), served boiled or better yet, pan fried with homemade applesauce, fried onions and sour cream. You can order a variety of interesting options like the chicken, pot roast, butternut squash with sage butter, or our favorite, the potato & cheese.
Veselka Bowery's fried cheese.
Veselka Bowery's Ukrainian stuffed eggs.
Diners can make a full meal by combining some of the savory appetizers, like the fried cheese with a fresh dill sauce and pickled seasonal vegetables. The Ukrainian Stuffed Eggs with a choice of wild mushroom, caramelized onion & bacon, smoked salmon & caviar, or chicken liver & onion have the look and taste of deviled eggs, but are sweeter and more amusing.

The entrees (all of them) are mouth-watering at first site, but I advise you to go for the Ukrainian classics once again. The savory cheese Blintz over beet greens with a Hudson Valley creamy leek sauce, topped with a delectably sweet blueberry and raspberry compote, is a very good choice.

Still, you will want to try pretty much everything on the menu, which is why you should get any number of the delicious entrees as a small side, as we did with the crispy, fried potato pancake, accompanied by sour cream and Veselka's homemade applesauce.
Veselka Bowery's pierogies.
Veselka Bowery's potato pancakes.
However, what really sets Veselka Bowery apart from its predecessor is its fully stocked bar (with an emphasis on 75 vodka varieties) and the incredibly extensive cocktail menu concocted by the young and inspiring beverage director, Eric.

Some of his goodies include the Bowery Beet, a mixture of Nemiroff LEX Vodka, Lairds Applejack Brandy, home made beet syrup, fresh lemon juice, and dill; the refreshing Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka, a mixture of fresh lime juice, simple syrup, cucumber, and cayenne pepper; or the Ruby Red Square, Russian Standard Vodka infused with grapefruit and pink peppercorns, fresh grapefruit juice, and peychauds bitters.
Veselka Bowery's Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka. Veselka Bowery's Bowery Beet.
Veselka Bowery's Ruby Red Square.
Veselka Bowery's vodka flight.
The cocktails are top-notch here, and in my opinion, reason enough to come. However, you cannot leave without taking a vodka flight, which Eric, the beverage director recommends, should be drunk slightly chilled. Also try (not in one sitting, mind you) the Ukrainian Heavy Weights, a combination of Nemiroff LEX, Status Platinum, Presidential Standard, and Sovetka; or the Polish Boys, a combination of U'Luvka, Debova, Czysta Zoladkowa Gorzka, and Zübrowka vodka.

The mood can be a bit subdued at times, but then again maybe owner Tom Birchard is just modernizing the Borscht-eating experience.

Veselka Bowery
9 East 1st Street
Favorite dishes of the week:

Best Skinny Girl Margarita: Los Feliz. A perfect amount of tequila and lime juice make for a thoroughly sweet and spicy cocktail.

Best Pizza: Prince St. Pizza. Made from scratch, all fresh ingredients.

Best Oysters: Acme. A delicate, fresh and flavorful interpretation of the oyster.

Best Wings: Hill Country. The Pit-Smoked Chicken wings are perfectly sweet and spicy in flavor especially when complemented by a delectable homemade buttermilk ranch dressing.
Skinny Girl Margarita at Los Feliz. Prince St. Pizza.
Wings at Hill Country.
Acme oysters.