The installation of chandeliers, aged wallpaper and kitsch is almost complete at Mari Vanna, a three-story Russian-themed chainlet opening next month at 1141 Connecticut Ave. NW. in Dupont Circle. The 6,400-square-foot restaurant joins a neighborhood that includes Eighteenth Street Lounge, Shake Shack and the bottle-service lounge Heist, which opens this weekend.
Mari Vanna, however, will be the only one touting babushka-chic decor. The concept restaurant, born in St. Petersburg with locations in London and New York, has traded on its distinct look — over-the-top homage to Slavic grandmothers — with mismatched chairs, tapestries and peeling wallpaper, plotted plants and flowers, Russian dolls and Faberge eggs peeking out of curios. In the District, the restaurant is even promising accordion accompaniment for diners, as well as tea service, a la the Russian Tea Room in New York.
The look will be complemented by a menu that of authentic Slavic fare, including pickled vegetables, salt-cured pork and caviar, beef stroganoff, blini, fishcakes and more hard-to-pronounce dishes that should add new diversity to the city’s dining options. (A peek at the New York menu shows plenty of clearly marked veggie offerings, too.) The District restaurant will be the biggest in the chain, the only one with a cocktail lounge for folks who want to sip on some of the 70 infused vodkas without having to sup.
The New York Mari Vanna drew mixed reviews from the New Yorker and the New York Times after it opened there in 2009, though the critics swooned over the vodka, including such flavors as beet, honey and oat, cucumber and dill, and horseradish. We suspect the cocktail bar will be perfect for those who’ve outgrown the scene up the street at that other vodka temple, Russia House.
Now, have a look at a few images from the space, which is still under construction.