We had a large group dinner on 24 Apr. It was my first time to dine in this restaurant. Before that night, some of my friends told me the food at Ivan was pretty good, and that was why I did have quite an expectation on the quality of the dishes.
I shared dinner with 2 other friends. In total we ordered 3 appetizers, 3 Bortsch and 3 main dishes. In general, the food was not bad at Ivan, but some dishes were indeed not as good as I imagined.
The 3 appetizers we ordered were Zakuska Po-Suzdalsky, Gribi V Smetane and Ribnaya Zakuska. The first one was actually ox tongue baked with cheese. I do think this is the best appetizer among all 3 of them. It was served in a small pot. The appearance may look ordinary but the taste is very rich. All the ox tongue slices were soaked in the liquid cheese. Though the cheese is all over the slices, the taste of ox still remained and the dish was not greasy. The 2 ingredients were a really good match.
Gribi V Smetane was baked mushrooms. The only special thing of the dish is that it is served with some slices of deep-fried bread. You can put the mushroom on it. The way to eat was special enough, but the taste was too ordinary to be impressed. It tasted like any other mushrooms you can find in any little mickey-mouse-restaurant or even in cans. Ribnaya Zakuska was a Russian style sashimi compilation. The sashimi were fresh, and the dished was served with the best appearance comparing to the other 2. Nothing too special about it.
The Bortsch we had was claimed and supposed to be the genuine Russian Bortsch. It was served with some sour cream. The soup smelt very nice, with all the ingredients. You could comfortably expect to have a strong-flavor soup simply based on the smell. If you are thinking in this way, you will find the taste a great great surprise. It was pretty blend, despite the fact that there were indeed lots of veggies in the soup. They were rather tasteless. I am not sure if this is how the genuine Bortsch taste, if so, I would say it is actually very different from the 'Westernized Mixed Veggie Soup' we usually have.
For the main dishes, we had Shshlik Iz Semgi, Chicken Kiev and Govyadina Stepnaya. The first one was simply fried Salmon in Russian style. Honestly, I failed to locate any difference, in taste or in appearance, had any difference with other fried Salmon fillet. But it tasted good, just lacking some features.
Chicken Kiev should be the champion among everything I had that night. It might look like any other Chicken Tempura. In fact, there was something special inside. The chicken fillet was stuffed with some cream and minced meat as I remember. The taste was good. Despite the deep-frying, the taste of chicken was still very rich. The texture was outstanding too. You have a crispy skin and a soft and juicy flesh underneath the chicken skin. This dish really worths a try.
The amosphere was one thing that I really liked about Ivan the Kozak. You can feel a very strong Russian feeling, from the decors to the video showing on the TV. Also, the place was not spacious, with tables packing together and guests sitting close to each other. In such a small area, the sense of enjoyment and happiness was very well spread and you would feel like home, or some village restaurant, where you can find nice people serving you.
I may have to take away the 'nice people serving you' from my compliments. The waitress served me was not in her best attitude. Perhaps the place was too crowded and she was extremely busy as every one was ordering. She kept on urging me to make orders, even if I was still thinking which dishes to choose. She did not give me time to breathe, it was too pushy. When the dishes came, she did not help us to place the dish nicely on the table, but simply gave me the dish and walked away. She did not take away the empty dishes neither, not until I used the dish to block her way to the kitchen.
The price of the dishes are not expensive actually. The bill was around 840 for the 3 of us. But is it worthwhile? That is a good question. I think Ivan the Kozak gives one of the best dining atmosphere and the most genuine Russian feeling, but some of the dishes may not be the best we can have with a loose budget on hand. Still, I believe it's worth a try.