2008_01FoodVarenichExt.jpgGothamist spent Monday afternoon strolling Brighton Beach Avenue ogling bacon, tins of caviar, baby octopus salad, chicken Kiev, assorted meat pies, smoked fish and a plethora of pickled vegetables among the delicacies in the nabe’s endless stretch of specialty food stores. We also window-shopped at Little Odessa’s gift shops; each overflowing with tacky specimens of multicolored Venetian glass vases. After all the walking and looking, we were getting hungry.

Then we glimpsed Varenichnaya on a side street. The gigantic gold pot perched atop the yellow awning made it hard to miss. For some reason Gothamist is drawn to gargantuan cooking vessels. Combine that with a sign outside reading “Russian style ravioly” and we soon found ourselves seated inside perusing the menu.

Russian style ravioli are better known as pelmeni, as we know from time spent in the restaurants of Rego Parkistan. We were shocked to learn that the menu’s Siberian variety contained pork, despite the picture of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson behind the counter. Given the wintry temperatures and our proclivity for pork we immediately ordered some. The plate of 20 or so dumplings came to the table dressed with a dollop of sour cream and a yellow blob of margarine. Rather than the tortellini shape we’re familiar with, these were more spherical. Think tiny Brussels sprouts, except made out of delicate dough wrappers and filled with juicy morsels of pork. Our dining companion was put off by the margarine, but we had no problem and were soon mixing it with the sour cream for an ultracaloric dipping sauce.

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Since the joint’s name literally means “dumpling house,” we had to try a plate of the vareniki and went with the fried cabbage variety. And we’re glad we did, the crescent-shaped dumplings were filled with a judicious amount of cabbage and had such a sweet flavor Gothamist wondered whose grandmother was back in the kitchen making them. Since there weren’t enough dough products on the table, Gothamist also tried a golden-brown khachapurri puff. It’s sort of a savory Danish filled with a pleasantly salty cheese.

Next time Gothamist is in Brighton Beach we plan to try some of the meat items. And we're not talking about the lamb kebabs. We've set our sights on a decidedly non-kosher main course: pork shoulder.

Varenichnaya, 3086 Brighton 2nd St., Brighton Beach, 718-332-9797