Walking down Brighton Avenue, the seductive scent of fresh and yeasty piroshky, sold on practically every corner, hangs heavy in the air. Men sit along the sidewalks in lounge chairs, smoking cigars, and debating Russian politics. The sound of ancient babushkas, rolling their shopping carts along the cement pavement, is almost deafening. But all around them, the tall and elaborate buildings that were once elegant and thriving banquet halls stand hauntingly silent. What was once a thriving culinary tradition is slowly dying off, leaving the few restaurants that remain akin to living museums, offering both evenings of unapologetic, vodka-fueled gluttony, as well as an incomparable taste of the neighborhood’s colorful, Eastern European history.
Romanoff: Located at the same address as the late and great banquet hall, Rasputin, Romanoff lives up to its predecessors legacy by offering old world opulence at its finest. Rich burgundy velvet curtains drape the walls, gold painted embellishments dance around the perimeter of the ceiling, and a medieval gothic-inspired iron and stained glass chandelier hangs above the dance floor. It’s eye-poppingly awe inducing, and the food, even more so. Although there’s an a la carte menu, parties of four or more are only permitted to order banquet-style. So if you’re dining with a crowd, don’t miss the blinchiki with caviar, whole smoked baby sturgeon, and the assorted meat platter, made up of chicken Kiev, lamb kebabs, and grilled calf tongue. If you’re looking to spend some serious cash, Romanov also offers an entire menu dedicated to reserved caviars and imported vodkas, as well as a Russian tea service; served in classic fine china, along with an impressive array of preserves. But leave room for dessert; the grand finale at Romanav includes fruit platters, chocolate sculptures, cakes, pastries, cookies and more.
2670 Coney Island Avenue, Sheepshead Bay
Baku Palace: Situated on Emmons Avenue, overlooking the Sheepshead Bay marina, Baku Palace is the perfect place to visit during the warmer months. Decorated to resemble the Palace Of Versailles, Baku is a prime example of European influences on Russian banquets. Items range from cheese plates to smoked fish platters, lobster salad to Russian potato salad, seared foie gras with pomegranate glaze to duck breast stuffed with glazed apples. But one of the most popular orders is highly traditional piroshki; light and fluffy pastries, filled with everything from sautéed cabbage to sour cherries—an authentic Russian staple not to be missed.
2001 Emmons Avenue, Sheepshead Bay
Chinar: Envision long communal tables covered in pristine white satin, wrought iron candelabras holding flickering candles, and sterling silver platters piled high with smoked fish, fried potatoes, charcuterie, pate, lamb chops, and suckling pig. Adding to this display of excess, picture women dressed in little more than sequins and feathered headdresses pacing up and down the aisles and offering shots of top shelf liquor, while a Russian opera singer takes to the main stage, and begins to belt out songs of the motherland. While the food is noteworthy too, it’s this multi-sensory and charmingly bizarre bacchanalia that keeps Chinar buzzing.
2775 Coney Island Avenue, Sheepshead Bay
La Vue: With its white leather sofas and fluorescent pink and blue LED lighting, La Vue is shockingly modern by banquet hall standards—more reminiscent of a cocktail lounge or dance club than baroque, sit-down restaurant. But however loud the music or strong the drinks, Chef Yuri Vasko’s organic, farm to table dishes have put La Vue on the map, such as rib eye so tender it dissolves on your tongue, sweet butter-poached lobster, whole roasted rabbit and sautéed wild mushroom salad.
3202 Emmons Avenue, Sheepshead Bay
Tatiana: Located in the heart of Little Russia, on the Brighton Beach boardwalk, Tatiana still reigns supreme as the most beloved, authentic, and lavish banquet hall in all of Brooklyn. Top shelf liquor is guzzled down like water, food is consumed to the point of sickness, and the merriment induced by both is positively infectious. Sticking close to its Russian roots, the restaurant features dishes such as the pickle platter (love the pickled apples!), khachapuri, a traditional Georgian, cheese-filled fried bread, and countless other delicacies that will make images of dancing matryoshkas fill your head. And anyone that enters the sacred doors of Tatiana’s must try their namesake salad; an Alice in Wonderland concoction comprised of shredded vegetables, roasted meat, mayonnaise and fried onions.
3152 Brighton 6th Street, Brighton Beach