Astoria Fine Russian & American Cuisine – Lakewood Ranch

In a previous post, I talked about our first venture with the Lakewood Ranch Wine Club this past Friday. After the wine club ended, we decided that we wanted to grab a bite to eat and so headed up the street to Main Street in Lakewood Ranch. We had originally thought that we would try some sushi or perhaps the local tavern but as we were walking we passed by Astoria Fine Russian & American Cuisine restaurant. Allison had talked about wanting to try this earlier, so we decided to give it a shot.

It was close to 9:30 PM and the posted hours indicated that they closed at 10:00 PM so we asked if it would be okay if we placed some orders. The place was deserted (which isn’t normally a good sign at a restaurant!) but they quickly invited us in and made us feel at home.

I have had Russian food a long time ago (not counting caviar, which I’ll take any chance I get) but didn’t remember much about it. Allison had never had it, so it was completely new to here.

We decided that we were going to go with all Russian dishes, and since they also had Russian wines we went with those as well.

For appetizers, we ordered a plate of Pelmeni which is a type of dumpling filled with ground pork and onions. Yum! Even Allison liked these, and she normally doesn’t eat dumpling type dishes. We also tried an order of Smoked Sardines, which was sliced toast with cucumber and sardine covered in garlic butter. These were a bit oily for us, although the taste was pleasant.

For dinner, Allison ordered the duck breast. The menu says that it is seared, and stuffed with feta cheese and apples however it appeared that the cheese and apples were simply placed on top. It was sat atop a sun dried cherry bur blanc sauce with roasted pine nuts. She thought it was fabulous. I ordered one of the specials, which was a broiled sturgeon with white sauce. I thought that I could find the details on the website, so I didn’t take any notes about it but it was quite tasty as well.

Now to the wines… I had never had any Russian wine before, and honestly didn’t even realize that they make any. Doing some research turned up quite a bit of information. It turns out that, much like the rest of the world, they grow both indigenous grapes as well as more common ones. Again, in keeping with our Russian theme we stuck with just the local stuff.

We tasted 2 different white wines. Both were made from Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes. The first grape, Rkatsiteli is widely planted, though it is most common in Georgia. It has also been planted in the US, notably in New York’s finger lake regions. It produces an acidic wine, with spice and floral notes. Mtsvane is typically blended with Rkatsiteli and adds a fruity, aromatic balance.

The first wine that we had was Tsinandali. It definitely showed some floral notes on the nose and was fairly sweet though it was balanced by some spice on the finish. Not particularly to our liking.

The second wine was Vazisubani, and comes from the Mildiani region within Georgia. This one was definitely drier, although there was just a hint of sweetness towards the end and reminded us of candied fruit. We both had a glass of this, but wound up only drinking about half of each.

We actually tasted two, but from reason I only wound up with notes on one of them… go figure, it was late and I think we were both tired.

The wine was a Mukuzani, though I’m not sure if the producer goes by the same or a different name. Mukuzani is a style of wine from Kakheti, Georgia so I suspect I just didn’t catch the producer. The wine is made from the Saperavi grape. This same grape makes another style known as Kindzmarauli, the difference being that Mukuzani is aged for a minimum of 3 years in oak as opposed to a less length for Kindzmarauli. This wine had a lot of stuff going on – bold, dark fruit with a lot of spice plus touches of raisin and a smoky, oak finish. It was pretty full-bodied but not very tannic. We were both very, very impressed with this one.

We had an excellent time here, with a waiter who was fantastic (it didn’t hurt that we were the only ones in there!). The food was outstanding, the wines surprising and the check was very reasonable so we will definitely be going back in short order. Cheers!

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