With a number of renown Russian restaurants in Brooklyn, it’s not uncommon to venture out of Manhattan to enjoy an authentic meal. Recently, however, there has been an influx of Russian eateries into Manhattan that are enticing diners with the familiar staples without having to travel outside the borough. One of the more recent newcomers is Onegin, an upscale locale in Manhattan where diners can savor traditional, authentic dishes, while taking in a bit of Russian history.
Located in Greenwich Village, Onegin pays homage to Russian author Alexander Pushkin’s novel Eugene Onegin, which was set in 19th century Russia—the era of Romanticism. In his exploration of life, love, convention, and death, Pushkin offers a verse narrative of an affluent aristocrat coming to terms with various aspects of his life and society.
Set against this time period, Onegin’s elegance resonates throughout the restaurant from the 19th-century carriage seats in the lounge to the red plush velour upholstery in the dining room. The crystal chandeliers and impressive portraits including one of Pushkin hanging on the ceiling set the tone for an exuberant Russian meal. As a unique touch, the tables and ceiling also features actual handwritten scriptures from Pushkin’s manuscript.
Before heading to your table, grab a seat at the bar made entirely of Ukrainian birch tree. Enjoy a shot of Onegin’s house-infused vodka ($10) selections, including melon & tarragon, horseradish, peach & caramel, cranberry & red currant—all made with Russian Standard. If you are a vodka connoisseur, you are in luck because Onegin features quite the selection by the glass and bottle, including Russian Beluga classic ($11 per glass, $180 per bottle) and Ukraine’s Nemiroff Lex ($9 per glass, $160 per bottle).
Onegin also offers several versatile cocktails, including the birch martini—Nemiroff birch, SoHo, Russian birch juice, and splash of fresh lime juice all topped with sparkling wine—and the citro julep–Jack Daniels, Combier Peach, peach purée, muddled mint, all topped with a splash of Russian cream soda.
To complement your meal consider ordering a bottle of wine from Onegin’s international collection. Some of the ‘Old World’ choices include Italy’s Sant’ Arturo pinot grigio 2010 ($36) and France’s Chateau Bonnet bordeaux 2007 ($40). For a taste of the ‘New World,’ consider Sbragia sauvignon blanc 2010 from Dry Creek Valley ($56), South Africa’s Simonsig chenin blanc 2011 ($36), and Australia’s Penfolds Koonunga Hill shiraz 2009 ($42).
In the spirit of Pushkin’s novel, Onegin’s menu is set up like a book with eight chapters. Chapters 1through 3 offer a wide array of appetizers, zakouski (Russian tapas), and salads, including salad “Olivier” ($12)—Russian potato salad consisting of diced chicken and carrots, peas, and potatoes all mixed in a Dijon aioli—and blini rolls with cured wild salmon ($18)—thin crepe-like pancakes served with diced scallions, red caviar, and sour cream. Both of these starters are small enough to be enjoyed individually or as part of a medley for the table.
Considered traditional starters, these dishes can also be combined with options from Chapter 4 (Soups/Dumplings), such as Russian brick oven borscht ($12)—the original beet soup mixed with chunky beef, potato, lima beans, and julienne vegetables—and Pelmeni dumplings ($15)—a Siberian mix of pork and veal dumplings served with a dollop of sour cream. While soup lovers will appreciate the complexity of the borscht, the dumplings are light and hearty and will whet your appetite, offering a nice segue to the main course.
Chapters 5 through 7 feature a number of delicious entrées, many of which are prepared using a wood-burning furnace (similar to one typically used in a czar’s castle in the 19th century). Feast your eyes on the traditional chicken Kiev ($26)—a boneless chicken breast pounded, rolled, and lightly buttered before being breaded and fried, and accompanied by a sweet and tangy sauce. Complement this dish with an order of the pan fried potatoes with sautéed wild mushrooms ($18) served with caramelized onions.
Onegin also features a traditional Russian beef stew, Zharkoe ($24). Served in a clay pot, the stew also features diced golden potatoes and a rich broth. Of course, the menu would be incomplete without beef stroganoff ($26)—tender strips of beef and mushrooms mixed in a sour cream-based sauce and served with mashed potatoes.
Chapter 8, Sweet Temptations, focuses on your sweet tooth with Russian favorites such as homemade Napoleon with Bavarian crème and smetannik—a traditional layer cake with sour cream frosting ($12 each). The winner is the halva parfait with cashews and hazelnuts ($12), a creamy “ice cream” cake that will provides a nice seal to a delicious meal.
Along with dessert, Onegin also features quite the collection of aromatic teas, including toasted nut brulée—a traditional Chinese tea with hints of roasted almonds, hazelnut, warm coconut, cinnamon, and caramel—and the black dragon pearl—spring-harvested infusion of black tea pearls with sweet undertones of cocoa.
A meal at Onegin is no small matter. Your best bet is to come hungry, and bring along friends or family in order to maximize the dining experience. The staff is quite hospitable and attentive providing historical context and clarification on the different dishes. A night at Onegin does not end with dinner. Be sure to take advantage of their weekday theme nights including Romantic Karaoke Tuesdays and Burlesque Fridays.
391 Sixth Avenue
New York, New York 10014