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The bread looked marvelous - a shiny, golden, big, flat, round loaf, indented in the center, seeded on top.
We were in an international market on multi-ethnic 108th Street, just off the 108th Street exit of the LIE.
"It's Russian and it's wonderful," enthused the young girl behind the counter.
And it's served at "Salute" on the next block.
The menu on Salute's window drew us into the small attractive kosher restaurant. Maroon napkins formed two diamonds on each table flanked by leatherette covered chairs. A monochromatic wallpaper covered one side and mirrors lined the other. A large TV was tuned to a Russian jazz station.
We caught glimpses of the chef/owner clad in a white jacket, and an assistant in a well-run kitchen.
The couple who had just ordered was being served tea in the most beautiful teapot imaginable, with cups to match. But no saucers - the reason being, if you can pick up the cup in your hands it is the right temperature for drinking.
A plate with sugar cubes and yellow raisins was provided and they cordially passed it over for us to try.
Or you can sip freshly made carrot juice or apple juice. Or have a glass of white or red wine or beer. The house red wine is Georgian, pleasantly sweet with a cinnamon after -taste. Delightful!
There are a number of complete lunch specials, so ordering is easy. The menu is English in one column and Russian in the other. As we were considering the menu, a gentleman entered, nodded to my companion (who looks very much the Russian aristocrat). He said something in Russian, and she returned the greeting. "I had a Russian friend," she explained to wide-eyed me.
The salads sounded interesting: Korean carrot salad, radish salad, Armenian pickled cabbage. We tried the latter with a wedge of cabbage, green tomato halves and two sliced pickles attractively arranged. Excellent. And then there was a wedge of that Russian national bread.
The soups, equally interesting, were: broth with quenelles, shurpa (broth with lamb or beef), lagman (noodle) and pelmeni (soup with stuffed dumplings). My lulu kebabs (petite meatballs strung on a skewer), squares of veal liver on a skewer (sensational), Russian piroshki, Asian pilaf, bagaganush, and hummus and steaks grilled over charcoal or chicken or salmon or chalokhoch are some of the offerings.
With our kebabs we were served sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and pickled onions. There was a cruet of mild vinegar with parsley and garlic to add a finishing taste to the type of salad I'm particularly fond of on occasion. Coffee, Turkish style, came in lieu of dessert, a fine finale.
By the way, "Salute" here means "Welcome."
Harry's Place bills itself as a "fresh fish restaurant, plus chicken, veal and beef dishes."
Harry Kalodis, the chef-owner and his tall, elegant hostess wife, are very busy weekends with lots of steady customers. Walk inside and you'll find a stunning restaurant. The large paintings were done at Harry's bidding. There's a huge blue and white compass rose effect overhead at the entrance. The ceiling is done in shades of blue and light blue to create waves. The decor, like the food, is Greek-inspired, but not Greek.
Harry goes to Fulton Street daily to select the day's catch including: St. Peter's, groupers, salmon, brook trout, and perch. We counted 14 fish selections and 13 meats on the luncheon menu.
Lunch from noon to 3 is $8.95 for five courses - including soup and salad, dessert and coffee: $6.95 for three.
Luncheon started for us with a choice of chicken noodle and Mediterranean bean soup. One each, please.
The rolls in the basket had been warmed. A salad followed with dressings placed on the table in sauce dishes, a creamy Italian, and a Russian.
From the day's specials we chose the "retro" salmon patties and shrimp creole. The salmon was right out of the 1940s - a large patty topped with mustard sauce ("Do you wish sauce?") on a plain plate with a mound of mashed potatoes. Like the '40s it was bland, as were the mixed vegetables - the favorite of that decade, peas and carrots.
The shrimp creole, on the other hand was hot, hot. And the shrimp was superbly cooked (marvelously moist) on saffron colored rice.
Desserts were chocolate pudding (ultra silky but bland); ditto the peach crumb pie (or apple crumb).
Harry has come up with a winning eight-year formula for his clientele: a five-course early bird for $10.95 (Saturday and Sunday, higher) and a five-course dinner based on the price of the entree - from veal and chicken breasts ($13.95) to shell steak combinations with five shrimps with garlic or lobster tail with shrimp stuffing ($24.95).
©2000 Community Newspaper Group
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