A newly opened restaurant in Ballston is offering diners the opportunity to sample dishes in the tradition of not one, but two countries whose cuisine is hard to find even in the worldly Washington, D.C. area: Russia and Uzbekistan.
Rus Uz, once an Alexandria-based catering company, opened its Arlington restaurant earlier this winter. The restaurant is connected to Ballston Art & Framing, though the dining space is distinct and separate from the adjacent business. A bar, surrounded in brick, divides the two spaces; a rust- and brown-toned motif runs across the lower half of the walls of the restaurant. A handful of tables, draped twice in white tablecloth and topped with stemware, are situated within the chic, cozy space.
It’s easy to see why such a restaurant would appeal to those familiar with and fond of this hard-to-fine fare, but an accessible menu ensures that even newcomers to Russian and Uzbek cuisine will enjoy the meal. Many of the dishes list their regional inspiration, like the Plov (the national dish of Uzbekistan, the menu says), and the Borsch ($7.50), a Russian beet soup that’s a popular starter to the meal. The beet soup is served warm, with a dollop of cream and a sprinkling of dill that, while potent at first, fades back into the rich soup. Plentiful strands and chunks of root vegetables, with a few pieces of meat, make the dish hearty and pleasant. Among the many available starters – cold dishes, small pies with meat or vegetable fillings and other stuffed pastries, soups, and more – is the Caviar Tart ($8). Elegantly plated, the four flaky towers of wrapped puff pastry are herb-garnished and crowned with a layer of caviar. Warm bread is also served at the start of the meal, accompanied not by butter, but by a dish of whipped yogurt and sour cream.
The entrees are divided between “stuffed” and “regular” varieties. The former includes dishes like stuffed cabbage rolls and meat-filled dumplings. The Pelmeni ($14), highlighted as a traditional Russian dish¸ packs well-seasoned minced-meat into remarkably delicate dumplings, whose thin dough has a loose grip upon the filling. The latter features the Plov ($15). The menu boasts about the satisfying quality of the entree, and doesn’t lie. The rice dish, served with lamb or beef and filled with thin strips of carrot and bits of other vegetables, is seasoned with an intriguing blend of spices and slightly sweetened by dried fruit. It’s craveable on a comfort-food level, a warm respite made all the more pleasing on a cold winter evening. A small serving of two sliced vegetable salads and a few olives join the plentiful serving of Plov on the plate.
Delicious food served in a charming atmosphere isn’t so hard to find when it comes to D.C.-area restaurants. Rus Uz has tasty cuisine and the appeal of ambiance, but the variety it brings to the area is its stand-out quality – one sure to appeal to a range of diners, from culinary adventurers to travelers looking to tap into memories of faraway places with hearty bites of food.
Rus Uz is located at 1000 N. Randolph St., Arlington. For more information, call 571-312-4086 or visit rus-uzcuisine.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.