The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Brighton Beach, Part 1: Dumplings and Vodka

"I feel like I'm in Disneyland!" exclaimed Kathy as we stepped off the train onto the Brighton Beach subway platform.

"Yeah...if everything were written in Russian."

Brighton Beach is the Russian-saturated section way out on the southern-most tip of Brooklyn by Coney Island. You could say that it has a Disneyland-like quality to it in that it feels...unreal. You're no longer in America—you're in the land of signs written in Cyrilic. There aren't any people walking around in costumes meant to resemble popular characters from animated films, but we did see a decrepit life-sized display of what we think was supposed to be a male waiter, if the waiter had an ax blade stuck in his forehead and a disease that caused one of his thumbs to rot off.

Cafe Glechik
Cafe Glechik

Kathy and I walked to Cafe Glechik to meet up with Olia (our Russian guide), Jeremiah, Natty, Ian and Diana. The radiant sunflowers on the facade made me feel welcome and safe. Almost as though I were walking down Sesame Street. Little did I know that by the end of my meal an unprecedented amount of hard liquor would find its way down my esophagus.

But first, there was food.


Or first, there was compote, a drink infused with dried fruit, sugar, and red food coloring. What fruits exactly, I'm not sure—there was definitely some cherry action going on. It's quite sweet so you might want to water it down with something. Like water. Or vodka. You know, whatever you have on hand.


Out of all the assorted pickles, I was most interested in trying the watermelon. And now I know that a pickled watermelon tastes of 0% watermelon and 100% pickle. Pickling changed the original light texture of the flesh to something more like a pickle—dense, crisp but somewhat pliable, super-saturated with tart juices. Watermelon lends itself well to pickling. Think about that the next time you have a lot of watermelon and don't know what to do with it. Which I'm sure happens a lot.

Salad Stolichniy
That is not ice cream.

Olia and Jeremiah had warned us about this dish before we even went into the restaurant. That for some inexplicable reason the salad stolichniy (or salad olivie?) came smothered in mayonnaise and adorned by a single cherry. From afar, it looked like an ice cream sundae (if the ice cream scoop were the size of a softball), but close up you could see it for what it truly was: a chopped up potato-carrot-egg-onion-etc salad bound together by mayonnaise and sour cream, doused in a thick, oozing mass of mayonnaise, and topped with a maraschino cherry. Why? We had no freakin' clue.

Jeremiah eats the cherry nom... SUCCESS
Jeremiah pwnz the cherry

Jeremiah did the honors.

Oh, the salad tasted fine, like a lighter, tastier, not very potato-y potato salad. It's quite good as long as you're a fan of mayo (as I am). It just wouldn't win a beauty contest.

baked eggplant sauce "Odessa"
Baked eggplant dip

I loved the "Odessa" baked eggplant sauce, a semi-smooth (or semi-chunky, or smooth-chunky) blended mush of baked eggplant, tomato, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and onion. Even though I'm not a big fan of tomato, it went well with the eggplant. I didn't know the sauce contained tomato at first (and its presence isn't apparent in the sauce's color), which made my first bite a little confusing; "Tastes like, wait, tastes like tomato...or eggplant...oh jesus I'm going crazy." After searching for the recipe, I'm glad to find out that my taste buds aren't completely useless.

julienne mushrooms with cheese
Shrooms n cheese

Baked julienne mushrooms with cheese: there could be nothing wrong about this dish. Shrooms. And melty cheese. And a bit of crusty cheese action going on the top. The next step in deliciousness would be to roll this up in to a ball, bread it, and deep-fry it. In my dreams.

vareniki with potato and mushrooms
More shrooms

Vareniki with potato and mushrooms = light, bite-sized dumplings resembling wrinkled half-moons filled with mushroom mash, and in Cafe Glechnik's case topped with butter, sliced mushrooms, and crispy fried onion strips. We went through two orders of this.

pelmeni "Siberian" (pork and veal?)
Yay more dumples!

Pelmeni "Siberian" were similar to the vareniki, but filled with a combination of ground pork and veal instead of mushroom goo and named "pelmeni" instead of "vareniki." I suppose that there are other differences; the main one I noticed was that pelmeni were more likely to be filled with meat than vareniki. If I hadn't been so focused on shoving the little babies into my mouth, I would've asked Olia more about the characteristics of the different dumplings.

Each order of dumplings (pelmeni or vareniki) consisted of 25 pieces, and each piece was easily eradicable in one or two bites, depending on the capacity of your mouth. The skin-to-filling ratio was perfect and the skin wasn't heavy or too thin—just enough to go with the little splodge of filling. Lighter than Italian pasta, but firmer than the skin of a Chinese dumpling. Not that this means anything to you if we're not all eating the same kind of Italian pastas or Chinese dumplings, but I'm trying to give a frame of reference..oh, how I try...

pelmeni "Moscow" (oven baked with eggs and cheese)
The pelmeni are stuck inside.

Pelmeni "Moscow" was described on the menu as "oven-backed with eggs & cheese." It probably took us a little too long to realize this meant "baked"—we couldn't help but continue to call it "backed." Nothing gets the chuckles going like a bit of language fail.

So imagine lots of little meat-filled dumplings suspended in a warm mass of gooey cheese and fluffy egg under a golden crust of coagulated egg and cheese. That's a whole lot of epic win.

vareniki with sour cherries vareniki with sweet farmer cheese
More, MORE

Vareniki with sour cherries and varekini with sweet farmer cheese provided something dessert-like. There was nothing wrong with them—I just happen to prefer savory dumplings over sweet. Fruit-based desserts aren't usually my thing and I thought the sweet farmer's cheese could've used more sweet...although I suppose the point of it was to just have a light touch of sweetness and not suffocate you with sugar.

...crap, what was this?
Wait, there's more

From the depths of nowhere came another plate of vareniki with meat topped with butter and fried oniony goodness.

Kathy, NOM NOM!

Thus is the greatness of eating out with a big group; the freedom to order craploads of stuff because someone's probably going to eat it.

Oh, I said something about drinking alcohol, right?

I haz a vodka

While we were waiting for our food, Olia realized that out meal would not truly be a Russian meal without a giant bottle of vodka. So she got one. And since everyone knows I can't stand the taste of alcohol because it digs into the nerve receptors in my mouth, throat, and whatever other surfaces it may touch, and flogs the receptors with little whips made of distilled vitriol, all eyes were on me to see how my elastic face would react to the onslaught of 80 proof liquor.

I sniff the vodka.. I AM APPALLED
If anyone is wondering, I'm wearing a black turtleneck dress, not a black turtleneck...shirt. Why does this make a difference? I dunno. I wasn't emulating Steve Jobs.


Well, you know me; I fold like a wet noodle in under peer pressure. Over the course of the meal I ended up slogging down 2.5 shots. The scary thing is that the flavor became more tolerable the more I drank. After perhaps 1.5 shots I thought, "Hey, this burning sensation doesn't bother me as much as it did before." I think the alcohol deadened my tongue. That's the trick, isn't it?

So how did I feel after 2.5 shots? Not that bad, actually. I think I got a slight headache but I could walk alright and I didn't act any stupider than I normally would. Vodka fail. Tristan suggested that it's possible that I don't become conventionally drunk due to an unwillingness to let my inhibitions go. Definitely a possibility. Still, I do expect something to's just doesn't.

Maybe I'll try for 3.5 during my next outing to Brighton Beach. Mmm, alcohol-poisoned-boppy!


Cafe Glechik
3159 Coney Island Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11235


Trish / March 8, 2008 1:32 AM

I would buy that vodka if you were the its promo girl. I imagined you wearing a bikini. Hotness!!

Jeanne / March 8, 2008 3:09 AM

OMGZ dumplings! I <3 them so. Speaking of dumplings, is Joe's Shanghai worth a visit? I love xiao long bao and ones here are often soupless or oversteamed or bland or soggy...;_;

Matin / March 8, 2008 8:20 AM

I love salad Olivie (as we call it in Iran) with not quite so much mayo. i dont make it myself ever, I cant bring myself to add the mayo but my Mum makes a wonderful olivie. I always wondered if it was really Russian as I never came acrodd it in Russian places so now its confirmed :-)
Thanks for sharing

K / March 8, 2008 11:13 AM

I love Cafe Glechik ! Next time you should try their stews...the rabbit is da bomb.

Me / March 8, 2008 1:16 PM

The reason why you didn't feel the effect of the vodka is because tristan switched it with water and add a hint of live juice. That slick little monkey.

Tina / March 8, 2008 7:50 PM

ZOMG, I want dumplings! ...and there's so many of 'em! I would never dreamed of eating a dumpling made with cherries.

And everything that's been cheese crusted is drool inducing.

Angeline / March 8, 2008 9:13 PM

I loved your Steve Jobs reference. I haven't seen many Russian restaurants, so thanks for doing this post.

reese / March 8, 2008 10:42 PM

Dumplings...........I will be seeing dumplings in my dream tonight. Oh glorious dumplings!!!!

roboppy / March 9, 2008 1:42 AM

Trish: No, not hotness, more like, "frightening and unnecessary and oh dear god why!"

Jeanne: I think Joe's Shanghai is good, although there are a lot of people who hate it. And a lot of people who love it. I mean, it's not bad, although I honestly can't tell what an awesome soup dumpling is. If it has soup and meat and doesn't taste like crap, then I'm cool with it.

Matin: I'd also feel funny using that much mayo if I were making it, hehe. BUT IT'S A MUST! MAAYOOO.

K: Oh crap, we had our eyes on that stew! For next time!

Me: That was the worst tasting water and lime juice combination ever.

Tina: SO MANY DUMPLINGS! SO MANY...BABY DUMPLINGS! We need to get you out to Brighton Beach!


I haven't seen many Russian restaurants either. If only there were more...they're tasty!

Reese: WAIT, I WANT THAT DREAM. I guess I lived the dream though, so I shouldn't ask for so much.

Michelle: Okay, I don't want that dream.

I swear it was tasty!...yeah...well, ignoring the cherry.

PS: I heart your blog! That's right, I [VERBIFIED ORGAN] YOUR BLOG.

Julie / March 9, 2008 1:50 PM

All the dumplings are starting to look the same. They all look tasty, though! I'm more into savory dumplings, too.

What did you dip into the eggplant dip? And don't say dumplings ...

Mila / March 9, 2008 8:48 PM

Um, maybe it's just me on a Monday morning, but Jeremiah looks like he's auditioning for the food scene in Tampopo (the egg yolk bit hehehehe). Hot!

Good thing you explained that you were with a group, otherwise, while I am sure you could have handled all those tasty bowls of dumplings, I'd be worried you had to be rolled back home on a wheelbarrow. I love the backed mushrooms and souffle looking dumpling dish... oooo, eggs, cheese, dumplings. Joy.

Morten / March 9, 2008 10:01 PM

The food looks great, though I'm not a big enough fan of mayo to have that much mayo in a single dish. I do love the dumps, however! Oooh, lots of them!

Oh, and 2.5 shots of vodka isn't supposed to make you drunk, particularly not while eating at the same time. Try 10 next time. That'd do the trick ;)

roboppy / March 10, 2008 12:29 AM

Julie: They do look the same, but it's what's INSIDE THAT COUNTS!

...the delicious...insides...

I actually didn't dip anything; I just ate it by itself. I could've put it on bread but...I didn't. -_-

Mila: HA HA HA OH MY GOD inappropriate. I cannot look at that photo of Jeremiah now. It has been tainted!

If I'm ever rolled out of a restaurant on a wheelbarrow, that's when I know that I've gone too far.

Christina: You can try and make the eggplant dip! Not that I would because I'm too lazy. Um. ...Yeah...

Morten: I think the mayo looks more overpowering than it actually is, but then I might just be really used to mayo. Ehehee. The flavor wasn't as strong as...other mayos I've had. It just. A big blop. OF MAYOO!

Dude, 10 shots? Yes, that would do the trick of sending me to the hospital. BUT MAYBE I WILL ACCEPT YOUR CHALLENGE!!

Sera / March 11, 2008 11:14 PM

"it's possible that I don't become conventionally drunk due to an unwillingness to let my inhibitions go."

That, and the taste, are my problems with the alcohols, haha. :)

roboppy / March 12, 2008 12:33 AM

Sera: Yeah, taste is definitely a big one. ;) Still, it's unsettling just how much you get used to the taste the more you drink. After 5 shots I may just drink it like water. Which would be bad.

Kim / March 17, 2008 2:55 PM

ah! the sour cherries were my favourite when I ate there a couple years ago. You've inspired me to visit again! (sans alcohol though ;)
I think you can get them at the grocery in Part 2

Ileana / March 19, 2008 4:40 PM

I love this review . . . any further suggestions for a food and vodka tour of Brighton Beach? My girlfriend and I would love to just spend an evening hopping from place to place . . . . thanks!

Aunt Jx / March 20, 2008 12:40 PM

Glad I wasn't the only one who saw those Jeremiah photos as a know..."interdisciplinary." Yow.

roboppy / March 21, 2008 1:19 AM


Ileana: Oh, I'm not familiar enough with the area to think of a food and vodka tour. -_- Not yet at least. The only other restaurant I've been to is Cafe Kashkar, which I highly recommend! SOOO TASTY.


Niall Harbison / April 21, 2008 8:12 AM

Hi there

I just came accross your blog thanks to stumbleupon and I am loving the food pics that you have, they are all so bright and full of colour. I started off as a blogger myself a year ago and loved talking to other food bloggers around the world so much that I wanted to find a way of more people sharing photos and meeting other foodies. I used to get annoyed that I would be making so many great recipe videos and food photos and hardly anybody would see them! That is when I came up with which is a new site for foodies all around the world to share food photos, recipes and videos as well as meeting other foodies. We are only starting off and are currently a small community but I would love to see you there sharing some of your amazing photos with other foodies! Keep up the good work on the blog and hope to talk soon.


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