When it first opened in the mid-1990s, an evening out at Pravda often began with finding a payphone. The Prohibition-style basement speakeasy featured no signage to indicate the Russian restaurant within, so many patrons were reduced to phoning for directions. Once they arrived, however, the memory of such efforts tended to vanish swiftly in a heady atmosphere where premium vodkas, champagne, and caviar flowed. Today's Reserve selection invites you to go underground for a four-course Russian dinner for two that includes the following:
- Champagne toast for two
- Caviar pairing with two shots of Jewel of Russia Ultra vodka
- Zakouski platter of Russian hors d’oeuvres, including potato pancakes with smoked salmon, roasted-eggplant dip, scrambled eggs with a caviar garnish, and spinach-and-cheese pirozhki
- Any two entrees from the menu
- Two desserts
Pravda’s name—the same as the former Communist party paper of record—hints at its Soviet-chic influences, but a spirit of clandestine luxury holds far greater sway beneath the restaurant’s immense plaster archways and lanterns printed with Russian text. The Reserve experience embarks on a grand tour of house specialties with a sampler of Petrossian caviar. Diners spread the delicate roe of farm-raised white sturgeon onto toast points to best appreciate its nutty flavor and silken texture. In a classic Russian pairing, they’ll also take shots of small-batch Ultra vodka from 300-year-old distiller Jewel of Russia. Said to have been a favorite of several czars, the vodka still goes through a slow-flow filtration process designed to leave it exceptionally smooth without any loss of character. Pravda's owners consider it among the finest of their more than 70 kinds of vodka, and it’s also among the rarest: only 2,000 bottles a month are released to the United States, each with hand-painted caps and glass.
After they enjoy another hearty dose of classic Russian snacks in the form of the Zakouski platter, guests are at last confronted with a decision. They might continue in the traditional vein with lamb shashlik—kebabs served with yogurt-mint sauce—or mussels in white-wine sauce; refresh their palate with vegetarian options such as organic lentil salad or grilled vegetables; or even opt for American drinking food such as a plate of mini cheeseburgers.
The evening concludes with selections from Pravda's rotating dessert menu. One popular option is the bittersweet Belgian chocolate cake, which is baked to order and arrives still steaming from the oven. As forks shear off the outer layers, they reveal a still-gooey middle that begs to be mixed with a cherry compote. Diners might also find apple baked in a pastry crust, or a Russian-style profiterole pastry sandwiching hazelnut ice cream. Depending on the hour, music might serve as a final course. Like a true speakeasy, Pravda caters to the evening crowd, serving as late as 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. A DJ begins spinning mellow sounds around 9 p.m., then gradually ups the energy around 10 p.m. by feeding the turntables strong Russian tea.