There are so many angles for an opening gambit to a review of Brighton Beach's famed Tatiana Restaurant & Night Club. We could go with the fact that for most New Yorkers, "dinner and a show" means a semi-overpriced Italian joint and a revival musical somewhere in the West 40s, not a Russian banquet, fire throwing, and line dancing. Or we could talk about how a meal at Tatiana is akin to a blind taste test, given that you can't reeeally see what you are eating about 80% of the time that a dish is served. Or we could discuss how the Wall of Fame down by the bathrooms has over 40 framed pictures, and that we can name all of two of the famous people being celebrated - Oksana Baiul and that guy from one of those movies...we think.
So to avoid having to make a choice, let's just go with all of the above. Tatiana is a complete sh*t show and one of the most bizarrely entertaining nights you will find in a town full of bizarrely entertaining options. Bordering a stretch of the boardwalk, Tatiana's outdoor seating spills out onto the strip. But the main event takes place inside, where your meal is accompanied by a very home-cooked show featuring dancers, singers, "trapeze" artists, and a shirtless 40-year old who pops up during a few different acts. How many dinners have you been to that ended with a light show and unison clapping from the entire dining room? We thought so.
And then there is the food. The grub essentially serves the purpose of letting you drink without getting the spins. With that in mind, you can come and order a la carte, but this place is known for its banquet style meals from Friday-Sunday. You'll need numbers for this option, so round up your closest and least judgmental friends. Here's a litmus test: Anybody who is embarrassed at karaoke is out; anybody who runs to the center of the wedding dance floor to lift the bride on a chair despite being a +1 and not knowing anybody there is IN. Head for Little Russia, and prepare to sit back and be served platter after platter, worrying less about the menu and more about the women dancing inside giant picture frames.
Major Pro Tip: This place is not BYOB but the waiters have been known to let a few outside bottles slide. That said, if you're rolling deep, you may be able to make arrangements with the reservationist ahead of time to bring in your own. If not, sweet talk your waiter when you arrive and, assuming you are successful in your pitch, pop around the corner to the nearby liquor store. Regardless of what you normally drink with dinner, might we suggest that vodka helps the entire Tatiana experience go down more smoothly.
Potatoes And Mushrooms
Exactly what it sounds like. A big ass plate of potatoes topped with various types of sautéed mushrooms.
Daikon radish, some form of meat (beef? duck? probably beef), and thin, crunchy fried onions, coated in some mayonnaise sauce. The crunchy onions and radish mixed with the chewy meat is a nice combo. This one is actually pretty good, despite the description I just gave you.
You know what's in a Greek salad? That's what's in this one too.
A few slices of homemade lox and butter fish, which is a fairly bland whitefish. At best, it's fine. Russ and his daughters would roll over in their graves if they ate this, but if it's what you're hankering for, it does the trick. Mind the occasional bone.
The pancakes are a bit bigger than you might be used to with blini, but the dough is actually pretty nice and sweet. Top it off with a scoop of salty salmon roe and you have one of the better bites of the night.
Spicy Beef Tongue
Not necessary. At all. Pass. PASS.
Chicken & Pork Shish Kabob
Very straightforward. Hunks of both types of meat, some pita, and some red sauce served up on a heaping metal platter. If you come here and don't go for a banquet dinner (doo ittt), this is probably the order for you. But where's the mystery in that?
Beef Stew "Country Style"
Not sure what makes this "country style" stew as opposed to "regular stew," but what the hell do we know about the Russian countryside? This is basically some hunks of beef in a ceramic pot, served up with some veg and brown sauce. As with most everything else here, this stew isn't going to change lives, but it will allow you to keep drinking.
Apple or Cherry Strudel
Served with scoops of ice cream, this is a big plate of dessert. About the size of your head, actually. Unless you're still starving at this point in the meal, order to share.