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Venue Review: Natasha's Bistro & Bar

Natasha's solidifies its status as a downtown destination
Natasha's Bistro & Bar
By "By Howard M. Snyder"
Lexington Herald-Leader

When Natasha's opened on Southland Drive in the early 1990s, I had the privilege of doing its first review. It was a Russian import shop with a small café on the side. Some of the food was good, but I thought a lot of it would be better appreciated in Russia than in Lexington. I didn't think that it had found its niche or that it would survive on Lexington's south end.

In 2001, Natasha's opened a downtown café, and I reviewed it then, too. It was better — much better. It had found its niche. And ever since Natasha's opened on the Esplanade, the crowds have gotten bigger, it has expanded to include sidewalk dining, the import half of the business moved into its own space next door, and now, Natasha's has full bar service and live entertainment or something going on almost every night.

When you enter Natasha's Bistro & Bar, it gives you an Old World feel, with its Moroccan lanterns and bare brick walls. Natasha's calls its food New American cuisine, but I think it is mostly Russian-Mediterranean-Thai influenced. Yeah, you can get a bison burger — they call it The Space Burger ($12) — but when you can get interesting stews, roulades and Thai stir-fry, who wants a burger?

I've eaten at Natasha's multiple times before this review, including a few times for dinner, a couple of times for lunch and once for Saturday brunch.

At that brunch, I had a very nice vegetarian quiche (fluffy and light) and a cup of a Thai chowderlike soup (very creamy and spicy).

I also had the “salad bar.” It made me laugh. It has to be the smallest “salad bar” on earth. Some salad bar aficionados could pile Natasha's entire bar on one plate. That said, the quality of the few selections was excellent. The greens (Romaine, spinach and field greens) were fresh, and there was not a leaf of iceberg lettuce. The bar was rounded out by feta and shredded Cheddar cheeses, chopped tomato and one salad dressing (creamy Italian, maybe?), plus other incidentals. I made a good salad with what was offered.

Brunch was $9, excluding tip. It was cheap for all that food. The quiche and salad bar were $6.99, a bargain. Hot tea was $1.50. The soup was extra (about $2.50), but it was left off the bill. So with tax and soup, the bill should have been $12 plus tip.

Dinner is where Natasha's shines. Its menu is cosmopolitan and its entrees include Hungarian goulash, midnight chicken stew, mushroom pot pie and ratatouille Provence. I certainly wanted to try them all.

On my most recent visit, we got the last two-person table in the place. A popular band was booked, and so were the tables. We started that dinner with the Mediterranean sampler ($9) — baba ghanouj, hummus, tabouli and mushroom salad. Neither the baba ganoush nor hummus was traditional, though, which is very plain. At Natasha's, they were nicely flavored with garlic and served with some slightly puffy pita points.

With entrees, you get a choice of soup or salad. I got the soup of the day, an acorn squash cream soup. It was thick — almost a puree — and rich with nutmeg. It was a pleasant prelude to the midnight chicken curry stew ($16). If you've ever ordered chicken curry in a Chinese restaurant, Natasha's version is similar. In the stew, served over rice, were raisins, carrots and cauliflower.

My dinner guest chose the house salad to go with the pork roulette ($19). The salad was fresh and similar to the one I made myself at brunch, but the pork roulette was a smash. Pork tenderloin had been stuffed with garlic, herbs, prunes and brie, then topped with mozzarella. The pork was as good as you can get anywhere: tender, garlicky and cheesy.

Now for a misstep: For dessert, I wanted flourless chocolate cake ($5), but our server was getting distracted with the other patrons. It was getting hectic. He brought us something else. We asked him to take whatever he brought back and bring the flourless chocolate cake. Eventually, maybe 15 minutes later, he brought chocolate ganache torte. If I'd wanted fudge pie, I would have ordered it. I never got the flourless chocolate cake.

That dinner for two, including two beers ($5 each), and tax but not tip was $68.

It looks as if Natasha's has found its niche, and that's downtown.

Reviews & Comments
CRITICS REVIEWS
Edit this review Delete this review
Jan. 23, 2009 - Lexington Herald-Leader - By Howard M. Snyder

When Natasha's opened on Southland Drive in the early 1990s, I had the privilege of doing its first review. It was a Russian import shop with a small café on the side. Some of the food was good, but I thought a lot of it would be better appreciated in Russia than in Lexington. I didn't think that it had found its niche or that it would survive on Lexington's south end.

(Full review)
Edit this review Delete this review
Nov. 19, 2007 - Lexington Herald-Leader - By Clinton H. Comley

Recently my wife and I had our foodie friends from Washington, D.C., visiting, and we decided to take them to Natasha's Bistro. When I called to make a reservation, the host asked whether we would be staying for the Gypsy dancers.

(Full review)
USER REVIEWS
Feb 26, 2010 - solscape

Jul 21, 2009 - sarahsue_11
I can't get enough of this place.

I just discovered Natasha's through one of my friends about 6 months ago and have been there several times since. I enjoy it immensely every time. It's a good place for people who are tired of the same old dishes and atmosphere from chain restaurants, because the menu is diverse and delicious; I've enjoyed everything I've tried. (I especially recommend the goulash.) You can't find food like this anywhere else in town. The staff has always been extremely friendly and accommodating, and after 9pm there is live entertainment.

I think perhaps my favorite thing about this place (besides the food) is the theater productions. It costs extra to see the plays, but it is well worth it. I was nearly moved to tears at one point because they did such a great job at wrapping me up in the story.

Bottom line: There is always something to good see and taste at Natasha's!

May 01, 2009 - sunnysandybee
Over time, still great!

I've been going to Natasha's for over six years now and it's become a family favorite. We know there will always be great entertainment and unique food that we can't find anywhere else in Lexington.
My college friends and I meet up at Natasha's at least once a year to talk and have a great meal. They have always been very helpful for our large group.

Feb 14, 2009 - manydances
Delicious and Innovative Natashas

I've been going to Natasha's since they were on Southland Drive, and it just keeps getting better. Their combination of delicious food, interesting ambiance, and creative programming distinguish it from other area enterprises. Lunch there today was absolutely delicious, everything very fresh. And the rum cake - absolutely to die for.

Aug 04, 2008 - EmJay
Excellent and out-of-the-ordinary!!

What a wonderful evening; seeing the Rakadu Gypsy Dancers at Natasha's was out of this world! The food was delicious, the service was good, and the entertainment was unlike anything else I've ever seen in town. We were transported to Morocco or something, and it was so cool to feel like a part of the event as the dancers moved through the tables. We'll definitely be back to this unusual nightspot, and we'll be bringing friends :) My only issue was that it was just a bit cramped, but I understand they are expanding the dining and performance spaces, so that'll be great!

Jun 24, 2008 - farrow_84
More interest in events and decor than food

The Natasha's Restaurant seems to be an establishment with a greater desire to have distracting music and eclectic decorations than quality food or service. It was not a pleasurable place to have a conversation or dinner with friends.


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