Thursday, July 6, 2023

Чай пить не дрова рубить.

     I haven't been to all the bars in the world, so can't state with authority that no other drinking establishment has a poster like the one toward the back of Russian Tea Time on Adams Street.
     But it did make me smile.
     You don't need to speak Russian to understand what is happening here. An unseen person offers a glass of vodka to his stone-faced companion, who pauses, steak skewered on his fork, and extends the flat of his right hand.
    "Het!" he says. Pronounced, in Russian, "Nyet!"
    Or in English: "No!"
    It's a temperance poster. A bit of mid-1950s Soviet anti-alcoholism propaganda.  And a generally useful sobriety message: You can say 'No.' It's allowed. 
Leg of duck
    Given the slavic sense of irony, I'm sure posting it here was supposed to be funny. Like that would ever happen! I certainly don't recall the poster slowing me down back in the day — Russian Tea Time offers a mean tea-flavored vodka, if memory serves, with three shot "flights" of various flavors — horseradish, coriander, ginger — going today for only $15. 
     Their black tea is also excellent, as was the food. My wife had a Moulard duck leg in Madeira sauce, with poached prunes and raisins and a grilled polenta, quite reasonable for $27, and I went for chicken shish kebab on savory rice, with a Tashkent carrot salad — I'm a sucker for carrot salads — only $22.
    As an appetizer, we had black bread and beet caviar. The caviar was rich and creamy, the bread, while good, was not the wildly delicious stuff laced with onions they used to serve. We still ate every crumb. Not to overlook the superlative pickles. 
    Service was excellent as well. I noticed our server had a yellow and blue lapel pin — Ukrainian colors — a reminder that Russian Tea Time received some undeserved toxic public blowback last year when the Russians invaded Ukraine, and the owner, Vadim Muchnik, who founded the restaurant with his mother, had to go to social media to remind the public that he's from Ukraine, as are many on his staff, and they deplore the war:
     "We are heartbroken by the recent news; our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this inhumane and despicable invasion,” he wrote. “We do not support the policies of the Russian government. We support human rights, free speech, and fair democratic elections.”
     The only downside — and that's more of an asterisk than a flaw — is the restaurant's name, Not the first word, but the last: "Russian Tea Time." When it opened, 30 years ago, it was initially called the Russian Tea Room. Then the one in New York sent them a cease-and-desist letter, so they changed it, ending up with a name that, to me, has a touch of kindergarten cutting across the general air of sophistication. Maybe with everything going on, they need to change it to the Ukrainian Tea Room. I bet that would be great for business.

     The title of today's post is a Russian folk saying, pronounced, "Chay pit ne drova rubit," meaning "Drinking tea is not chopping firewood."  In other words, it's easy.


  1. Their bread is actually made at Kaufman's. That's why it's meh.

  2. With a headline in Cyriysctoot, you had me wondering if I'd been hacked by Putin's Stooges.

    Or maybe the Republican Party.

  3. Regarding Comrade Nyet in the temperance poster, anyone who arranges his peas and carrots in neatly aligned rows is not a man to be trifled with.


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