Kitsch-'n'-Kiev

At Pearl by the Sea, both the floor show and the delectable Russian cuisine are over the top

But the truth is, all the items were finely prepared and freshly plated, from the delicate blini with smoked salmon and salmon caviar to the chicken liver crêpes (a serious treat for chopped-liver fans) and the marinated mushrooms and smoked eggplant salads. The two hot appetizers, quartered potatoes pan-fried with garlic and puffy cheese turnovers -- not miniatures, mind you, but full size -- oozed satisfying amounts of butter. By the time the 20th starter comes around, or the waiter asks you if you need a refill of bread for the fifth time, you're likely to cast him a disbelieving glare. Unless, of course, you've matched shots of vodka to bites of food, which means you're just about facedown in the egg whites stuffed with a rich mix of cream cheese and walnuts.

In addition to appetite conviction (or a Jenny Craig commitment the next day), you also have to invest the time because, it seems, you can't rush a Russian. Our "reservation" was for 8 p.m.; by midnight, we'd received a double order of one of my favorite Russian delicacies, the pelmeni. These beef-stuffed pasta dumplings, similar to pierogi, were brought steaming hot and dripping with butter and were more than enough to take the edge off any remaining hunger we might have had. Which was a good thing, because we had yet to be served the first main course (choice of baked duck in apples, baked pork with vegetables, or fried salmon with white wine sauce). We could only imagine when the second main course (choice of Cornish hen, chicken Kiev, or pork chops baked in Russian crème) would arrive, let alone dessert. Feeling as if we were trapped at the kind of wedding of which nightmares are made -- when the cake is cut at 4 a.m., long after the band has retired for the evening -- we cried mercy.

The tasty fuel for all the late-night Slavic fun at Pearl by the Sea
Joshua Prezant
The tasty fuel for all the late-night Slavic fun at Pearl by the Sea

When the server realized we intended to depart without eating the entrées, he graciously cut the bill down to $35 per person. Now, that's what I call hospitality. Pearl by the Sea may lose your reservation, deliberately or not, but once you pry your way into the clamshell, there's treasure to be had.

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