Feb 052011
 

Cuisine: Russian
Restaurant Features: Bar, Banquet, Late-Night Dining (Fri-Sat until 12am)
Location: St Paul, MN
Address: 371 Selby Ave St Paul, MN 55102
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-2pm  & 5-11pm  Friday 11am-2pm & 4pm-1am Saturday 4pm-1am
Links: Moscow on the Hill Website * Moscow on the Hill Facebook Page * Google Map

Atmosphere: Moscow on the Hill is located on Selby Avenue across the street from W.A. Frost.  I was somewhat surprised by the simple outside appearance of the restaurant, as I had been envisioning a building with Russian architecture, but I know not to judge a book by its cover.  One foot in the door on a Saturday night and you can tell this is a very lively place; there are people everywhere and accordion music can be heard somewhere in the near background.  The tables are somewhat close together and one thing that struck me was how loud it was inside.  It was all I could do to hear our soft-spoken waiter above all the people and accordion music.

A good portion of the space is made up of the bar and lounge area, a cool place to grab a drink while waiting for a table.

On the weekends this accordian player strolls by the tables, entertaining guests.

All of the lights are draped with these Russian Scarves in different colors.

Menu: Appetizers at Moscow on the Hill include Blini (buttered crepes), Blini with Caviar, Blini with Chicken, Escargot, Gravlax (cured salmon), Russian Herring (cured), Pate, Pickled Vegetables, Cheboureki (lamb stuffed fried pastry), Pirozhki (beef and cabbage pastries).

Soups include Borscht and Matza Ball.  Salad offerings are the Duck Prosciutto, Tea Smoked Chicken and Smoked Salmon.

The hearty Russian and European-influenced entrees at Moscow on the Hill include Siberian Style Pelmeni Dumplings, Vareniki Dumplings (filled with potato and caramelized onion), Givetch (sauteed veggies and rice pilaf), Walleye, Salmon Fillet with Vareniki, Duck Breast “Ekaterina”, Chicken Kiev , Chicken “Kolobok”, Beef Tenderloin Fillet, Beef Stroganoff, Lamb Kebob, and Czar’s Medallions.

Rice pilaf , Mashed Potato, Sautéed vegetables, Fried baby red potato with dill & garlic, mushrooms and onion are offered as side dishes.

Desserts include White Russian Tiramisu, Dark Chocolate Mousse, Truffles, and Napoleon pasty filled with fruit and vanilla custard.

Price guide: Appetizers $5-13  Salads $8-19 Entrees$14-22  Dessert $6-7

Happy Hour:
  • Monday-Thurs 5-6 & 9-10  Fri-Sun 4-6
  • Half Price Tap beers, House vodka shots, Rail vodka cocktails
  • $5 House Specialties: Marusya Gold, Bloody Russian, Cherry Gimlet
  • $3 Appetizers (or 3 for $7): Blini with Chicken, Creamy Mushrooms, Mushrooms in sour cream sauce, Pirozhki with Cabbage, Baked pastry served with creamy dill-garlic sauce, Chopped Liver Pate with Russian rye bread, Pelmeni dumplings, CheburekFried lamb stuffed pastry
  • $7 Pirozhki and Borscht Combo

What we ordered: We started out with cocktails, I had a Cherry Gimlet.  It was tart and strong, a nice combo.

One of my companions ordered the Bloody Russian, made with the horseradish vodka. I tried a sip of this and wished I had ordered one of these instead, I loved the flavor of the horseradish vodka. It had pickles and olives on a toothpick and a lot of spices mixed with the tomato juice.  If you like Bloody Marys, this is one you don’t want to miss.  Served with a beer chaser.

As soon as I saw Borscht on the menu, I knew I had to try this traditional soup made of beets, red cabbage and potato.  The soup was a distinct clear, dark pinkish-red color, and was somewhat sweet.  The dill and sour cream were nice compliments to the sweetness, which tasted a lot like the pickled red cabbage you find in German cuisine.  Very different but delicious.

One of my companions ordered the Matza Ball Soup, which was very good.  The Matza balls had the typical spongy texture and had soaked in the chicken flavor of the stock they were cooked in.

As usual, I had a hard time making up my mind about what to order, as many sounded very good. I decided on the Salmon Filet with Vareniki dumplings. This dish was really good! The bowl had several of the steamed dumplings, filled with mashed potato and caramelized onions. They reminded me a lot of pierogies.  The dumplings were covered with a sour cream and dill sauce, with a beautifully blacked salmon filet sitting on top.  I enjoyed this dish very much!  The salmon was purposely undercooked and had more flavor in the seasonings than I was expecting.  The combination of flavors between the salmon, sour cream and potato dumplings was a great change of pace from the dishes I typically order.  Very good!

Two of my companions both ordered the Czar’s Medallions, a large thinly sliced breaded pork cutlet topped with a creamy mushroom sauce and then baked cheeses on top.  It was served with mashed potatoes and sauteed veggies.  I thought this was also very tasty, a good dish for someone hesitant to step away from the familiar.  One of my companions liked this dish a lot, the other doesn’t care for mushrooms and hadn’t ordered it without.  I wouldn’t say it has a strong mushroom flavor by any means, but if you don’t like the texture of mushrooms, you’d probably want to order it without.

Another companion ordered the Siberian Pelmeni Dumplings.  I tried one of these and it honestly tasted a lot like a steamed Chinese dumpling, but was served with sour cream and vinegar instead of soy sauce.  They were filled with ground beef and pork then steamed.  The portion size was pretty big, very good.

Service: Knowing we would be visiting on a Saturday night during Winter Carnival, I had made a reservation earlier that day.  Despite being over an hour late for the reservation, they had saved a table for us and made us feel welcome.  Our server had good suggestions for us but was very soft spoken and hard to hear.  Drinks were brought out within 5 minutes and water was constantly refilled.  Entrees took around thirty minutes but soups were brought soon enough to tide us over.

Overall Impression: I had heard of Moscow on the Hill for years and after this first visit, I can finally say I have been there and tried Russian food.  The food is good and the service is decent, as long as you don’t mind how loud it is on a busy weekend evening.  Parking is on-street and having a reservation is a good idea.

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