Update: Hawa Russia is now closed.
In light of the planned CU Dinner Meetups at Hawa Russia (pronounced “Nasha Rossiyah”), a new Russian restaurant that opened two weeks ago at the Columbus Square shopping center on the Northeast side of town, Paul and I decided to drop in tonight for a little scouting mission, to try out the food and to get a copy of the menu.
The place was rather empty when we stopped in, probably due to the newness of the enterprise, and the decor was homey and a bit on the formal side (white tablecloths, seat covers and linen napkins, yellow walls with various traditional Russian decorations, etc). Shades of the building’s former life as an Asian restaurant were evident, but looked kitschy rather than out of place.
Their menu is almost exclusively traditional Russian comfort food (think borscht and pirozkhi), and we decided quickly on what we wanted. Unfortunately for us, however, the normal chef was not there tonight (aparently there was some medical emergency), so roughly half of the menu items weren’t available because the person filling in didn’t know the recipes.
We decided on a shared appetizer of 3 Meat Pirozhki ($5), which were not at all what we expected. There wasn’t much meat in these, with the filling being mainly bread crumbs with the slight flavor of meat and a very occasional little chunk amongst all the filler. While not great on their own, these were quite tasty acting as a breadstick for the borscht.
Ah, the borscht. How do we love thee? Let me count the ways… I’m not a fan of beets, but their Vegetarian Borscht ($4 for a honkin’ huge bowl) rocked my socks off. Nicely tomatoey and chock full of lots of veggies (beets, potatoes, carrots, green peppers, onions, etc), it had a wonderful flavor that only improved with the addition of the sour cream that was served with it. If all borscht is this good, count me in.
As a precursor to his entree, my husband also ordered the Salad “Hawa Russia” ($7), a very large plate of radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes and scallions tossed in a creamy and refreshing sour cream/dill dressing. This would be extremely soothing on a hot summer night.
He had the Siberian Pelmeni ($10) for his entree, which were meat filled dumplings that kind of reminded me of Chinese Soup Dumplings that have the broth inside of them. The meat flavor shined though on these (a mixture of pork and beef, but during lunch, they also have veal and chicken), and while delicious all on their own with a bit of sour cream, they were magnificent when added to the borscht.
Since they weren’t able to make the dish I originally wanted, the Chicken Kiev, the waitress instead suggested that I try the Chicken “Tabaca” ($11), which she said would be similar. It was served with mashed potatoes and what tasted to me like a really spicy cold garlic salsa (seemed a bit out of place, although tasty). I didn’t really get a chance to enjoy it, however, because my poultry was underdone. I chalk it up to ”new restaurant hiccups” and they handled it with the utmost of professionalism, which is a really good sign. They quickly took it off my bill and I ordered the borscht/pelmeni combo myself.
The space is fairly large, and a good choice for large groups or parties – just be sure to call ahead and let them know you’re coming. On Saturday evenings, they have a banquet with live music. Although it’s going through a few growing pains (that normally happen within the first 6 months of a restaurant’s existence), Hawa Russia shows great promise and fills a void that’s existed in Columbus for a while. I’m eager to go back when the whole menu is available – there are many dishes on there I’d still love to try.
If you’d like to go: Hawa Russia, 2680 E. Dublin Granville Rd (161), Columbus, 614.899.7020.