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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Feast for Seekers After Pelmeni Perfection

At long last, I have found the perfect pelmeni.


Anyone who shares my quest knows that this is no easy task. How often have you taken that first hopeful bite only to discover meat full of gristle, disintegrating dough, and an amorphous blob that just can't hold its shape.


But lovers of this Siberian dumpling need not travel all the way to Irkutsk to find perfection. I found it right here in Moscow at the Restaurant of the House of Journalists.


Here the pelmeni connoisseur will find dough that is tender but not mushy and a meaty filling that is succulent and not overly fatty. And this little dumpling -- plump and supple as, if I may quote my slightly deranged dining companion, an overweight gymnast -- manages to keep its hexagonal shape until first bite.


Even more exciting, the House of Journalists menu gives you ample opportunity to try its pelmeni. You'll find it in a broth under the soup dishes, or cooked in a brazier under hot appetizers. But the yummiest option of all is the pelmeni in a pot that lurks in the meat section. Swimming in a light sour cream sauce, the pelmeni are protected by a crusty shield of lavish bread that you must rip into before you can spear your first dumpling. At 18,000 rubles ($3.80), this is a visual as well as gastronomic miracle.


Perhaps I'm getting a little carried away, but if anyone finds a better pelmeni than the kind they serve at the House of Journalists (babushka's homemade variety excluded), I want to know about it.


Ironically, in spite of all these options, I almost did not order the pelmeni. Perhaps I was afraid of disappointment, but more likely I was distracted by the extensive menu, which offered exotic choices such as crab baked in a brazier (23,000 rubles) and sturgeon a la cloister, or po-monastersky, which at 40,000 rubles is the most expensive item on the menu. According to one fish lover, this generous filet smothered in sour cream, cheese, onions and mushrooms was worth the splurge, even if it did render him inoperative for the rest of the day. If this is how the clergy eat, he said, no wonder they tend to be portly.


Anyone who makes a habit of counting grams of fat should stay away from the House of Journalists, as cream is a prominent ingredient. But if you can overlook the glistening drops of oil swimming on top of your potato-mushroom soup bowl or the slippery residue under your escalope of pork, this is a pleasant and peaceful spot for an occasional cholesterol binge.


The trick about dining at the House of Journalists is getting in the door, as overzealous babushki do occasionally check for your Central Union of Journalists card. However, even if you don't happen to be a Russian journalist and you gesture wildly toward the restaurant -- or even better, call ahead and book a table -- the maitre d' can go to battle for you. Indeed, the restaurant staff is remarkably helpful and polite.


On the day I visited, two red-vested waiters were smoking outside the restaurant as I approached. To my astonishment, they simultaneously snuffed out their cigarettes and escorted me to a table, smiling in the process. If I had any doubts about the quality of the House of Journalists dining experience, they vanished right then and there.





Restaurant of the House of Journalists, located at 8a Suvorovsky Bulvar, is open daily from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. (no one is seated past 10 p.m.) Reservations are recommended for dinner. Telephone: 291-2479. Rubles only. Nearest metro: Arbatskaya.