(QUICK BITE) Russian Roulette

Pepper Pike: Restaurant Europa is the embodiment of the Cleveland restaurant scene before the city gained national stature as a must-eat place.

Considering the buzz it’s generating around town, the menu was surprisingly unsurprising. Anything you’d expect on a primarily Russian menu was there: beef Stroganoff with mashed potatoes ($15.50), sautéed frog legs over pasta ($17) and stuffed cabbage ($13.50), all topped with gobs of sour cream. Little was done to distinguish itself from supper at an Eastern European relative’s house.

If you choose wisely, you’ll end up with a hearty, tasty meal like I did. The meatloaf Wellington ($12) looked like the most imaginative thing on the menu — I’ve seen both beef and salmon Wellington, but never meatloaf prepared this way. The puff-pastry crust was flaky, the meat cooked and spiced just right, and a creamy sauce helped bring the dish together. The side of latkes were thick, yet still crispy on the edges.

But choose wrong, and dinner can leave you disappointed. My companion’s Siberian pelmeni (Russian ravioli, $9.50) was doughy, drowned in sour cream and bland.

The prospect of nightly live music was promising, but the violinist’s selections of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” and “Moon River” made me cringe. I thought I heard something Russian, butthen my dining companion said it was clearly the theme to Love Story.

We asked for a recommendation from the chilled vodka cooler, which resulted in a lot of confusion. We ended up with a tasty vodka martini of what was supposed to be a fantastic Russian spirit. It wasn’t until I got home and looked at the bill that I realized I had received Effen, which, while phenomenal, isn’t what I asked for: It’s Dutch. 30519 Pinetree Road, Pepper Pike, (216) 591-1273, restauranteuropacleveland.com
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