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Mari Vanna, A Russian Chain Opens its Largest U.S. Restaurant near South Dupont


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For dinner, if you're at all tempted by the thought of visiting a Russian restaurant, resist the urge to go to Russia House and head down Connecticut to Mari Vanna. It's a tad expensive for what it is, but the palmeni (dumplings), vareniki (pierogis), and pirozhok (stuffed buns) are all excelent and make a fine meal by themselves. The beer selection was a bit limited when I was in, but the three Russian beers offered were all interesting (try the Baltika 8 if you like hefeweizens). And the house-flavored vodkas (several of which which were given to me free of charge by the eager bartender) were actually pretty good.

Incidentally, this may be the only "nice" restaurant I've ever seen that serves alphabet soup.

I still don't see a topic for Mari Vanna, so I'll start one with my post from the "Help Wanted" thread. My one visit was limited to appetizers, but they were pretty good. I'd love to hear from anyone else that's been.

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I still don't see a topic for Mari Vanna, so I'll start one with my post from the "Help Wanted" thread.  My one visit was limited to appetizers, but they were pretty good.  I'd love to hear from anyone else that's been.

Well, I went with you recently. My one visit was limited to appetizers, but they were pretty good. I'd love to hear from anyone else that's been.

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Well, I went with you recently. My one visit was limited to appetizers, but they were pretty good. I'd love to hear from anyone else that's been.

The Pelmeni and Vareniki are great -- dare I say italic worthy? -- but I've never made it past them on the menu.  I mean, why would you eat anything else?

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Went there on Wednesday evening and the kitchen closed early because of the snow storm. Had a pickle plate and some of the horseradish vodka, which was surprisingly tasty. We went with some grad students/postdocs from Russia and they were excited for a taste a dishes from home, but they had to settle for returning on another night. I will be returning at some point as the menu looks pretty good.

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I met some friends at Mari Vanna on Tuesday to watch the Olympics.

A lot of stuff on the menu looks good, but I never seem to make it much past the vareniki and pelmeni:

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They were so good we immediately ordered a second round of each.

Later, we tried the blini with smoked salmon and the pirozhok:

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Then I think the Baltika must have started to kick in, because things got weird:

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We didn't last much longer after that.

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Do you need to know a key to enter after 6pm?

I walked in last night after 6pm without a key (I saw a sign on the door referring to a key, but I didn't pay attention to it and just opened the door.)  I was looking for a sedate bar and was happy to find one after having passed various packed bars on M Street and Connecticut Avenue.

I ordered the meat pelmeni, and they came in a round, rust colored, covered clay container (unlike the white bowl in the picture above).  I enjoyed the steamed meat dumplings.  Not my first time having pelmeni, but my first time trying them at (and visiting) Mari Vanna.  The pelmeni came with sour cream, but they reminded me of Chinese dumplings, and I wouldn't have hesitated to dunk them in that soy sauce based dumpling sauce.  They were good with sour cream though.

I also had the flatbread with cheese and an egg, and I enjoyed that as well.  A boat shaped flatbread with fluffy, slightly chewy puffed edges that I dipped in the egg and ate with melty cheese.  I also got a free shot of cranberry vodka with my check.

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Just had a great lunch here.  I was looking for something different and not too heavy, and remembered Mari Vanna.  I started with the fish sampler, which was a board of five cured smoked fishes.  The fish was fresh and tasty and the portion sizes were ample.  I then had the "herring under a fur coat", which was a delicious, layered salad of beets, herring and shaved hard boiled egg.  I love pickled herring, so I was inclined to favor this, but the combination of textures with the egg and beets made it a great dish.  I finished with a strong coffee (I'm pretty sure it was an Americano).  Service was attentive and polite, decor was beautiful and relaxing.  Definitely recommended.

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Probably the best tasting Russian food in the area (the Russia House and RusUz included).  Everything tastes fresh and homey for those of us who grew up eating this type of food, and, believe me, that's a good thing.  I would suggest making a reservation for their Sat./Sun. brunch ($35) to get the real experience of what the Russian cuisine has to offer.  Would personally abstain from eating late dinner there because the top floor turns into a dance club after 9pm, unless you are into this sort of thing.  The main gripe is the cost as Russian food, generally inexpensive to make, should not cost an "arm and a leg" simply for being a novelty item.

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