An Update on Mari Vanna

The elaborate Russian restaurant will open its second US outpost in Dupont Circle next fall.

Mari Vanna will bring Russian fare with all the flourishes to Dupont Circle. Photograph courtesy of Ginza Group.

There are more developments at Mari Vanna, a Russian imported headed to Dupont Circle in the fall of 2012. We spoke with Tatiana Brunetti, a founding partner of the Ginza Group, which owns Mari Vanna locations in Moscow, New York, and London as well as more than 70 other concepts in Russia.

“The idea is of a home atmosphere and home cooking,” says Brunetti of the three-level restaurant and lounge going into a former Randstad location at 1141 Connecticut Avenue. “The concept is the memories from a Russian grandmother.”

The decor, which will be similar to that at Manhattan’s Lower East Side location, evokes babushka’s parlor with dangling chandeliers, stuffed armchairs, antique rugs, and stacks of grandmotherly belongings (think dolls, kettles, hatboxes, decorative bowls, and other assorted Russian tchotchkes). Keys to the front door of this “house” will be bestowed on regulars. Though it’s a club-like touch, any first-time visitor is welcome to knock. As guests ascend the stairs leading to three separate floors, rooms become progressively more private. So while the sidewalk-level entrance will have a traditional dining room and social areas, the second and third floors will have moodier lighting and more soft surfaces for lounging.

Like the decor, Brunetti says the fare will be similar to dishes on the New York menu. Heartier eaters can opt for platters of smoked fish and entrees like chicken kiev, beef stroganoff, and pelmeni (veal dumplings). Those looking for something to nibble on while sipping one of the 30 house-infused vodkas can pick from the blini menu; the thin Russian pancakes can come topped with everything from caviar to assorted jams and Nutella. Vodkas will also run the gamut from sweet to savory, with both fresh fruit flavors like apricot and lychee and spicier concoctions with horseradish, garlic, and beets.

Eventually Mari Vanna will be open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a limited late-night menu that runs until 2 AM. Hmm. Seems a little late for a meal at Grandma’s house.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.