For all the Russian, Georgian, and Polish markets on Geary and Clement -- their variety and quality has improved dramatically over the past decade -- their popularity doesn't seem to translate into Eastern European restaurants in this city.
Stalwarts like Cinderella and the lovely Katia's Tea Room have been around for ages, but other restaurants seemed to have slinked into and out of San Francisco without attracting a lot of attention from the broader population. So when I learned about the opening of Red Tavern, one of the city's first Russian restaurants to open in years, I made it the subject of this week's full-length restaurant review.
The restaurant mixes Russian classics in with more generic Continental food and off-the-wall items like escargot and Cuban sandwiches. After my first meal at Red Tavern I got enthusiastic about the place. After my third meal, not so much. But dishes like the Siberian pelmeni stuffed with pork and veal, Bulgarian salad -- ripe vegetables and tomatoes covered in a shower of grated feta -- and beef stroganoff capped in a perfectly rounded pastry dome are certainly worth a trip if you live in the neighborhood.