Russian ‘Rendezvous’

Newark Star Ledger, NJ
Feb 18 2005

Russian ‘Rendezvous’
It’s tough to get past the appetizers at bustling Manalapan
restaurant Rendezvous


Rendezvous brings an authentic taste of Russian cuisine to Manalapan.
Dine on black caviar with butter, crepes with sour cream and Uzbek
chuchvara (fried dumplings) in glittery surroundings.


Nightclub. Access the lengthy dining room via a snazzy glass-brick
vestibule. On Saturday nights (and some Fridays and Sundays), it’s
party time at this strip mall spot with a live band and filled
tables. It’s relatively tranquil on weekday evenings.


Caring, courteous and attentive on uncrowded weekdays. Slow and
preoccupied on busy weekends.


Regional Russian. Dishes range from an assorted pickled vegetable
platter ($10.95) and Caucasian tomatoes ($6.95) to Uzbek shurpa (lamb
and vegetable soup, $6.95), samsi (puffy turnovers) with pumpkin
($3.95), chicken Kiev ($16.95) and beef stroganoff ($14.95).

We sipped our own Stoli and nibbled on crusty squares of Armenian
bread from the exposed brick oven. (The owners are Armenian, born in
Uzbekistan.) We could have made a meal of the excellent hot and cold
appetizers, which outnumbered the entrees two to one on the menu.
King’s herring with home style potatoes ($6.95) featured a mildly
pickled fish fillet alongside a stack of spaghetti-like, vinegary
onions and crisp golden spuds. The smoked fish platter was well worth
$18.95. It was an ocean’s worth of sliced sturgeon, turbot, salmon
and butterfish showered in black olives pin-wheeled about the plate.
Then came the dumplings: dainty balls of Siberian veal-stuffed
pelmeni ($6.95) and ravioli-like vareniki filled with sweet-sour
cherries accompanied by sour cream. Two Georgian dishes were
delicious — hachapuri ($4.95), cheese-stuffed, flaky turnovers that
melted in the mouth, and lobio ($5.95), a red kidney bean salad
tossed with crunchy dried beef and chopped pecans freshened with
cilantro. Ukrainian borscht ($5.95) was sweet, zesty and heavy on the

Two entrees were just right. Chicken tapaka ($15.95), a butterflied
whole chicken fried crisp in an iron skillet with a weighted lid, was
smothered in garlic and accompanied by a robust tomato sauce.
Calahach ($20.95), juicy baby lamb chops, also came with a rich
dipping sauce. Both dishes came with terrific fried potatoes.

Desserts, prepared by the owner’s wife, are not to be missed. The
honey cake was masterful, layer upon layer of chocolate, honey
filling, pastry and cream. The sweet pecan cake was addictive, as
were the creamy Napoleon and pear-stuffed, pencil-thin crepes
drizzled in chocolate and cherries.

Come to Rendezvous not only for top-notch Russian home cooking, but
for an unforgettable Saturday night wing-ding.

Food: ***

Ambience: ***

Service: ** 1/2

Overall: ***