This location used to be the Silver Swan German restaurant. After they left Mari Vanna owners took over and converted to the place to what it is now. During lunch time there may be few tables here and there so not a problem getting in and enjoying the $24 lunch special (Served Monday To Friday 12 PM To 4 PM includes One Appetizer and One Entrée) but once the sun goes down then it's a different story; good luck getting a table after 7 PM to 10:30 PM. Place gets packed mainly with Russian clientèle and their partners/friends/family. I hear Sundays you have a better chance of getting a dinner reservation.
First when you walk in there is the bar area with few small tables along the window. Then there is a decent size bar with bar stools and next to the bar there are four high tables and chairs (these are easier to get as a walk-in). Later in the night place takes more of a lounge/club atmosphere with energetic music and fun people.
Food comes out the kitchen in the back of the dining room with wall to wall windows for an open kitchen feel. It look like they may have converted a back garden to the kitchen area. Dishes are surprisingly good, I was expecting mediocre Russian food but I guess because their customers are mainly Russian they need to make sure they are happy with the taste and presentation.
You have a choice of ordering a la carte from menu or go with the "Russian Table" (Chef's Choice Of 4 Cold Appetizers, 2 Hot Appetizers, 1 Soup And 4 Entrees (Meat, Poultry, Fish And Vegetarian) And 2 Desserts. Table For 2 $150). This is something I may try on my next visit but for this time we started with Borscht With Pampushka (traditional beet &vegetable soup with beef.) for $12 and Mari Vanna Smoked Fish Plate salmon, eel and cold and hot smoked ostetrina (sturgeon) for $18. For main courses I can recommend the Chicken Kiev for $27, Black Cod for $32 and the Duck Leg for $25.
Prices are a bit higher than usual but the portion are generous. Besides their drink list they also offer fresh juices starting at $12.
I'll either stick with the quiet lunch time or early dinners on Sundays unless I am feeling like a long night out of eating and drinking with friends...
41 East 20th Street
New York, NY 10001