Mari Vanna

I decided to go back to my First and Second-Year roots in September and enrolled in a Russian class through the Global Language Network: a not-for-profit, largely volunteer-run language school here in DC. While I still find Russian очень трудно (“very difficult”… see, I’ve learned/been reminded of some things!), I’ve certainly enjoyed the weekly two-hours spent in a DuPont conference room.

Except last week we only spent one hour in said DuPont conference room, and then strolled down Connecticut halfway through class to grab some русская блюда (Russian food) at the local Russian restaurant: Mari Vanna. I’d never been before, and in fact, I realized that in spite of my former Russian fascination, I’d never even really experienced Russian cuisine before.

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We expected it to go a little something like this (as shared by a classmate the week before):

But even though they proudly infuse their own vodka at Mari Vanna, we ended up making the more prudent Wednesday-night decision of foregoing the shots and settling on some Russian and Ukrainian пиво (and one Moscow Mule [insert requisite aphorism re: being in Rome]).

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The full Mari Vanna menu can be viewed here. A few of us decided to share some of the items our teacher, Victoria, had briefed us on during the first half of class: cabbage pirozhki, sweet cherry vareniki, and the famous Сельдь под шубой (or “herring under a fur coat;” the “fur coat” being a bed of onions, beets, and mayonnaise. And I actually found it– and the rest of our order– pretttty tasty…). Other pirozhki and vareniki items were ordered, someone got a wings dish, and Victoria went for the chicken Kiev.

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cabbage pirozhki

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sweet cherry vareniki

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herring under a fur coat

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I think everyone was pretty happy with their dishes (though I’m still regretting not topping off the evening with some medovik— Russian honey cake), but what was also really noteworthy was the decor. It was like being in your little old Russian grandma’s house (but like, in a good way).

P1030371P1030354P1030370Final noteworthy thing: as the meal wound down, a Russian friend of a classmate showed up and was strongly encouraging that we accompany him upstairs for karaoke. While most of us resisted the temptation, it seemed worth passing on that there’s some allegedly very entertaining karaoke at Mari Vanna on Wednesday nights, and that at the very least they have “Fly Me to the Moon,” in terms of English songs.

Oh, okay, and final final thing (appropriate as we approach Thanksgiving): During the dinner our Turkish classmate regaled us with the history of how the turkey bird received its name– because no, the country was not named for the bird. It’s a pretty fascinating tale and the Economist gives a nice, thorough telling.

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