Michael and Marina Levitis invited me to their Rasputin restaurant in Sheepshead Bay (2670 Coney Island Avenue, 718-332-8111), so I put on my Cossack hat, grabbed some friends, and raced there with my tongue out to help celebrate the place’s 20th anniversary in style.
When we sat down, our table was already bedecked with trays upon trays filled with smoked fish, almond prawns, marinated cabbage, and cold cuts.
“Happy birthday, Irina,” announced an MC as we stuffed ourselves senseless. “Also we have birthday of Andre.”
More smoked fish. More cold cuts.
“And now, the married couple’s first dance.” And out came a married couple as promised, slow-dancing to a Russian love song as fake snow fell on them as if out of Doctor Zhivago.
A cabaret show ensued, with four amazing vocalists alternating on various Russian tunes, backed by two festive dancing girls.
At one point, Michael Levitis explained to me, “This song is ‘Russian Women Have the Best Asses.’ And they do!”
I could see why. Our waiter, Boris, was now bringing over veal and rice, beef Stroganoff, seafood pasta, and filet mignon.
Michael and Marina (who wore a zebra print Robert Cavallo) were vigorously dancing in the crowd, and it was inspiring to see that, unlike many club owners, they actually enjoy their own party.
Next up, the married couples and birthday people were posing with their entourages on the dance floor for the house photographer, as a little girl stole their thunder by cutely doing Russian dances around them.
More fish. More rice. More vegetables. More fish.
“In five minutes, there’s a show,” said Michael.
Huh? I guess the four cabaret singers was just the pre show.
Out came dancers basically dressed like Russian villages, and they performed rapid-fire costume changes, Moulin Rouge high kicks, flamenco twirls, and even some aerial stunts.
It was like a downtown club revue but with legit production values.
At 12:10, after three hours of continuous eating, the main course came! Lamb kebabs! So I guess all that other stuff was just the pre food.
This place is so amazing. They are planning to open one in Manhattan, too. Even if they open one in Siberia, I will be there.
Photos by Patrick McMullan.