Opulence: this SoHo newcomer has it; especially where the cocktails are concerned. Ariana, a new eatery helmed by Russian-American pop star Ariana Grinblat, wants to bring vodka out from beneath whiskey's shadow, a feat handily accomplished if you're decking out martinis with caviar. Specifically, a traditional martini made with Beluga Gold vodka and served with a "frozen black caviar filled lollipop used to stir." It'll set you back $56 but what's a little money with swag like that?
Besides blinged out cocktails, look for Russian fare brought into the 21st century, with classic dishes revamped for contemporary palates. "The identity of Russian food in the U.S. has remained stagnant for the last 100 years while cuisine in Russia continues to evolve and transform," Grinblat explains. High quality, seasonal ingredients are part of the key, as are contemporary cooking techniques courtesy of St. Petersburg-based chef Vitalii Kovalev.
Small plates like Country Pate made with chicken and duck livers are good for spreading on cranberry-hazelnut crostini and topping with pear preserves and house-pickled shallots. A standby soup gets a makeover in Velvet Borscht, a beet, cabbage and root vegetable consomme fortified with oxtail broth and poured over a slow-roasted hunk of short rib decorated with creme fraiche and chives.
This isn't your babushka's Stuffed Cabbage either; Ariana stuffs their Napa leaves with butter-poached lobster, then douses the dumpling with a creamy black cavier broth at the table. Other entrees include a Braised Rabbit in Madeira wine sauce and Satsivi, pan-roasted squab in a thick walnut and pecan sauce.
If you don't have the scratch to blow on a pricey martini, try shots of their infused vodkas ($14) like dill/peppercorn, basil/habanero and pineapple/coconut or out of the ordinary cocktails like a Green Bell Pepper Marinti ($15), made with vodka, dill elixir, black peppercorn reduction and ghost pepper elixir with a Himalayan sea salt and fennel rim. BYO Tums.
140 West Houston Street, (646) 678-4334; arianasoho.com