Wining and dining Russian-style at Bistro Gambrinus

Russians are coming! Russians are coming!
Last Friday, my step-dad was celebrating his birthday at a beer-and-grill bistro joint on Masonic and Fulton in San Francisco, called Bistro Gambrinus.

The place that used to be a coffee shop has recently changed hands, and the new owners Sergey and his wife Clara from ex-Soviet Union have completely remodeled and redesigned it, managing to infuse an eastern-European bar/restaurant feel into it, combining European bar food and atmosphere with a Russian style party platters. A real estate agent in his day job, all along Sergey nurtured the idea of one day starting a place unlike any other he had seen in San Francisco - a Euro style bistro. When he met Oleg Popoff, an experienced chef who had run restaurants in Germany and Los Angeles, the two decided to join their visions and forces, and officially opened Bistro Gambrinus in May of 2009. The result? With Oleg in charge of the kitchen and Clara taking care of the guests, the plce is a whole lotta fun!

The seafood platter.

For anyone who thinks that Gary Vaynerchuk's Russian dad is a nice guy, check mine out:

2007 Firriato "Altavilla della Corte" from Sicily is one of the best values I've recently discovered in white wine. Made out of Sicily's Grillo grape, it clean, flavorful, balanced, and a welcome alternative to Pinot Grigio, a perfect pairing for seafood. Sicilian wines are making quite a strong showing in the last year in the US. Grapes like Frappato, Nerello mascalese (used in Etna Rosso), Nero d'Avola, and Grillo are being discovered in this country and are bound to grow in popularity, selling for $10-20/bottle, excellent with food.

Next, the meat-n-potatoes platter.

Pork ribs, lamb chops, chicken kebabs, potatoes topped with mushrooms, and various savories were very good.

These sorts of meats have a slightly sweet charred flavor and go well with wines that have body and ripe fruit. The two wines I picked indeed worked very well, the classic - Las Rocas Garnacha - easily beating out the excellent Napa Valley Cab from Mario Perelli-Minetti ($19) even in the crowd of devout Cabernet drinkers. The Spanish was just more interesting - full-bodied, ripe, fruity, reasonable acidity, and spice which really titillated Russian palates. Hands down winner, the Russians bought out the rest of the Las Rocas inventory at Vineyard Gate, especially sweet since it went for around $10/bottle.

Note: unfortunately they have a very limited selection of desserts, so bring your own if you must have 'em.

Bistro Gambrinus is still relatively unknown in the Russian community, but the word is spreading. For those who want to ease their way into Russian food, this place offers a softer transition (less culture shock) than the more traditional Russian restaurants like Fandorin or Russia House. Gambrinus manages to walk the line between American, European, and Russian, taking beer bar food and atmosphere up a notch - which is just the ticket for my crazy americanized(?) Russian-Jewish mishpocha - oy gevalt!


Anonymous said…
Hi G,
Have u heard the wine "The Prisoner"
What do u think?
Iron Chevsky said…
Not sure I know what you mean by "The Prisoner" - are you referring to Orin Swift's wine? It's quite popular.
vinska klet said…
Looks like you all enjoyed the evening Bistro Gambrinus, all that food and wine it made me hungry and thirsty, i had to open a bottle of Dornfelder.

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