Mari Vanna Restaurant Coming to 1141 Connecticut Ave, NW

by Prince Of Petworth August 1, 2011 at 3:30 am 27 Comments

I’ve been wondering for a while who’d be moving into the prime space formerly held by Randstad (next to Godiva Chocolates) at 1141 Connecticut Ave, NW.

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Turns out it will be Mari Vanna Restaurant. According to a recent liquor license application, it will be:

“A fine dining restaurant serving traditional Russian cuisine with a seating capacity of 215 people inside and sidewalk café seating for 25 people outside. Total occupancy load is 250. Background music will be provided. There will be no entertainment and no dancing. No nude performance.”

It sounds like it’ll be from the same folks behind Mari Vanna in New York City:

“The menu offers time honored Russian classics such as the flavorsome customary soup Borsch with Pampushka, Beets, Broth, Beef, Cabbage, Carrots and Potatoes served with Sour Cream in a beautiful tureen that holds enough for seconds or thirds; try the dish that can be found on any dining table across Russia on any given holiday, the Olivier Salad, Diced Carrots, Green Peas, Pickles, and Cubed Bologna with a Light Sage Mayonnaise. There is also the beloved Beef Stroganoff served with Buckwheat and Mushrooms in Truffle Oil, warmed in an adorable Russian doll koozie of sorts; or the succulent Chicken Kiev Cutlets, cooked to perfection, juicy and moist, filled with a decadent herbed butter sauce. And the piece de resistance is of course the Petrossian Caviar platters from red to black served in a stackable Russian doll dish with Russian style blinis, sour cream, diced red onion and crumbled egg yolk.

Complementing the authentic fare is a vodka program like none other, featuring dozens of top-shelf Russian vodka, as well as selections from all over the world, more than 70 varieties total. Mari Vanna also makes an eclectic list of house-infused Russian vodkas with flavors ranging from sweet to spicy and savory. Guests can sip on vodka infused with Horseradish, Beets, Oats & Honey, Apricot, Watermelon, Garlic & Dill and Pineapple, just to name a few, all displayed in giant canisters at the bar.”

You can see their full NYC menu here.

I’ll be sure to update as construction progresses.

  • BloomingdaleGuy

    Why the need to point out that there will not be nude performances? I’ve never associated nudity with Russian cuisine, but now I’m wondering if I should have…

    • ontarioroader

      It’s standard wording on all DC business/liquor licenses.

  • Sleepy

    Sounds gimmicky using nesting dolls as serving dishes. Hopefully the food stacks up. It’s hard to find any decent Russian food in the DC area, and I can only make so many trips to Brighton Beach. Also, you shouldn’t be bragging about borsch in your press release. It’s peasant food. Nothing wrong with that – it’s just not fine dining.

    • Anonymous

      you’re jadedness has gotten the better of you.

      • Sleepy

        Russians are a jaded people.

        • Anonymous

          uniformity is a wonderful thing.

          • amethystdeceiver

            as a fellow Russian, I’m 100% with Sleepy on this. this place is gonna be douchey as fuck. would love to see some Brighton-style places out here but don’t think it’s gonna happen.

          • Anonymous

            glad to see you have uniform opinions.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, borsch is “peasant food,” but if you haven’t noticed, there are plenty of fine dining establishments in DC and elsewhere that make dishes like that super-trendy. For instance, Oyamel serves chapulines (grasshoppers), which are basically street food in Mexico.

      • Anonymous

        Oye – looked at the prices a bit steep but then this is more in the tradition of neuvo Russians and less real Russia.
        What I wouldn’t give for a simple, down home Russian restaurant in the DC area that isn’t gimicky (Russia House – and apparently Mari Vanna) and simply authentic with decent prices.

        • Anonymous

          this is where i lament that old russian deli at eastern market. damn i loved that place.

          • saf

            Misha’s was very good.

      • Anonymous

        Ping Pong Dim Sum, anyone?

    • NFT

      Peasant food? In Russia? I think some context would be valuable to this, when you are criticizing a restaurant for serving peasant food.

      While serfdom began to decline as early as the first part of the 19th century, it was not completely eliminated until 1892.

      There was a ruling monarchy in Russia until 1918.

      From that point until the fall of the USSR, they were largely a nation of millions of peasants ruled by a very small portion of elites.

      Now, while upward mobility and wealth accumulation are possible, being a 21st century peasant is far more likely than being a middle class professional, let alone a new Russian oligarch, or something approaching that status.

      So, peasantry is a dominating influence on Russian culture, so it shouldnt be a surprise that food that originated with peasants would be offered at a Russian restaurant.

      • Anonymous

        Many dishes served in fancy Italian restaurants, like bruschetta and polenta, were peasant foods.

        • Anonymous

          people complaining that a place serves “peasant food” are either idiots or trolls.

          • Anonymous

            Peasant food is the best (assuming you’re not a big meat eater).

          • Anonymous


  • jm

    I’m gonna go out on a limb here and predict that this will be the best russian restaurant in dc!

    • Sully


  • Rod

    There’s a reason why Russians drink their weight in vodka every year. The food sucks!

  • Matt

    If the Mari Vanna in DC is anything like the location in New York, expect some interesting vodka infusions (like with sea buckthorn or seaberry) that are pretty expensive. They might also give Russia House a run for its money on trying to make overpriced peasant food fancy.

  • NFT

    I went to this place in Moscow, and there is also one in Saint Petersburg (the city in Russia). I thought the food was among one of the best meals I had during my visit.

    I’m not sure I understand all of the negativity about this restaurant from people who a.) havent been there, b.) have spent maybe as much as 30 seconds looking at the website and reading a blog posting.

    As for it not being genuine enough, it is a Russian owned restaurant. Not by Russian immigrants or people who lived in Russia for a few years, but its owned by actual Russians. Their web address ends in .ru. You may not end up liking the food, you may not like the restaurant… but to criticize it for not being “Russian enough” doesnt hold water.

    I also find it perplexing that one can come to this blog one day and hear bitching and moaning about there not being enough ethnic food and that our culinary choices just don’t compare to world class cities, and especially new york.. but then we get the 4th location in the world of a restaurant that is in 3 of the most significant cities in the world. It brings an original concept and is really not like anything we have here already. Yet, people know its just not good enough after looking at a flash presentation and a blog post.

    This is all a long winded way of saying, give the place a chance. I’m keeping an open mind, it may not cross the globe and retain all of the things that made it an enjoyable experience for me. However, it might, and if it does, it will be a great addition to our city. I hope it will force new restaurants to up their game when they open here, instead of trying to pawn off yet another expense account restaurant offering mediocre food at high prices.

    • Anon2

      +1,000 Thanks for being a voice of reason.

      If I were a restauranteur and read this kind of crap I’d have second thoughts about opening something in DC. The provincial highbrows in this town sure love to complain about its lack of “authenticity” and the extreme self-martyrdom they must experience to find it.

      • elcal

        While i’m willing to give any authentic or kitschy place a chance, NFT is NOT a voice of reason (argument is supported by such farcical points as having a .ru domain as authenticating their russian cuisine and thinking that St Petersburg is one of the most significant cities of the world–Moscow is even debatable on that point). NFT is obviously a Russophile who studied Russian politics, economics or history.

      • Anonymous

        If I were a restaurateur I wouldn’t care what people complained about online. The success of restaurants like Lauriol Plaza are proof that it doesn’t matter one bit if people like the food or ambiance. Just find a good location and provide speedy service and you’re gold. 🙂

        • Anon2

          Yes, the Lauriol Plaza point is a good one. I eat there about once a year when somehow I can’t get out of a group outing. I always walk away shaking my head wondering (1) why did I just spend $X on such crap and (2) what the hell are all these other people doing here?


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