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My Lunch with Lenin

By Michael Schiaparelli · August 29th, 2007 · The Dish
Some dreams seem quixotic. Imagine leaving your native country to build a better life for your family in a new, strange land. My immigrant grandparents did it; millions of others have, too.

Tsiala Yusupov is one of them. Just 10 years after arriving in America, she has already succeeded beyond any reasonable expectation with the opening of Red Square (9104 Cox Road, West Chester, 513-755-8942), her excellent Russian restaurant featuring her homeland's specialties.

Just off Reading Road across the parking lot from a bleak, cinderblock strip mall of seemingly Soviet-era design, Red Square might have started life as a brightly painted pancake house. But the building is overshadowed by a looming sign for a different former tenant -- a Lebanese mezze restaurant.

Half the interior is devoted to a deli featuring ethnic meats, baked goods, pickled vegetables, candies and beverages. Beyond the deli, heavy drapes frame dining room windows and tables are covered in red.

Russian nesting dolls and model ships provide cultural touchstones, but it's the enticing aromas emanating from the kitchen that herald a special meal to come.

Arrive hungry and try several starters, including delicious Stuffed Eggplant ($3.59) sliced paper-thin and filled with a rich mixture of nuts, cilantro and mayonnaise. Try the soups, too. Borscht ($2.85) is an enormous steaming bowl of warm, herby beet broth filled with shredded cabbage, potatoes, beets, carrots and onion. Moscowskiy Salad ($3.55) is also worthwhile ­ a potato salad which includes chopped pickles, sausages, eggs and peas.

Call ahead for the singular Perogi Osetinskiye ($8-$13, depending on filling). Cooked to order, they take 45 minutes to prepare. These are not the small potato- or cabbage-filled dumplings you might expect. One enormous Perogi can easily feed four people. This dazzling dish resembles a 12-inch, double-crust pizza and comes stuffed with your choice of potatoes, cheese, ground beef or cabbage.

Familiar kebabs and beef stroganoff are available, but Cabbage Rolls ($6.55) are phenomenal, stuffed with delicately spiced beef that shows Tsiala's deft flavoring touch. The Pelmeni ($6.59) -- little dumplings filled with fragrant-minced pork and served with sour cream -- are also delicious.

In a nod to some customers' reluctance to experiment, Red Square offers a selection of burgers, sandwiches and chili ($3-$5), but don't miss out on Tsiala's wonderful way with ethnic specialties. In an area dominated by bland chains, Red Square is an enticing alternative, one that definitely deserves to flourish. Grade: A

CONTACT MICHEAL SCHIAPARELLI: letters(at)citybeat.com


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