By Narbeh Minassian
Russia is a misunderstood country on this side of the Atlantic. Some of the foremost associations with this nation are snow, space stations, and an outdated link to communism; the biggest country in the world is, and has long since been, so much more than that. The Firebird restaurant goes some way in conveying this, as perhaps the most authentic Russian restaurant outside of its motherland.
The Firebird is a pre-revolution restaurant and is the culmination of a life-long dream of Baroness Irina von der Launitz, granddaughter of Vladimir von der Lauintz, the mayor of St. Petersburg until his assassination in 1907. The restaurant evokes a passion for Russian art, literature, and of course cuisine, with a dining-room decorated with china and crystal collectables and a book shelf of rare Russian books. In truth, here it feels more like a dinner party than a restaurant, and this should not be taken pejoratively as the grand staircase and domed ceiling give an almost overwhelming sense of opulence.
Main courses are varied in choice and yet specialized in execution. The Chicken Kiev is a forte of Europe’s eastern stretches and this is no less true here, but if you’re looking for the very best and are willing to pay a price that reflects such quality, then the Armenian Lamb Rack and Filet Duo is the standout choice. Firebird also has a valentines menu, which, admittedly, is roughly 7 months away from being relevant, but reflects the romantic nature of the setting nonetheless; this is a restaurant for couples all year round.
Perhaps one key association with Russia that I had overlooked in my previous list was vodka. Nobody does vodka like the Russians, and to leave this restaurant without trying their vodka would be a culinary and cultural sin. To complement your vodka, pair it up with caviar from their vodka and caviar pairing menu.
Firebird restaurant provides yet another compelling reason for New York’s diverse restaurant scene and is well worth a visit. •
365 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036