The wine list doesn’t give vintages, but it has some good bottles at unusually good prices. Our bottle of MacMurray Ranch pinot noir ($7/glass; $26/bottle) was light, crisp Sonoma pinot noir at its best — wonderful with or without food. (Yes, the wine was “cured from the homestead of late-actor Fred MacMurray,” but his screenwriter-daughter who runs the property is no absent-minded winemaker.) I was a little disappointed not to get a taste of the sweet Georgian Kinzmaurauli Kavket ($9/$34), which was out of stock. And the tea — Stash-brand sachets in a tall cup of hot water — ($2) was somewhat casual for a Russian restaurant. They don’t stock decaf, but the espresso ($3) is the real thing. You can also order homemade flavored vodkas.
Desserts ($4) were very good for the price, though they were not at the same level as the rest of the meal. Still, no one will have a problem with the decadent chocolate cake — a tall, thin slice of richly flavored cake with vanilla ice cream on the side. In fact, almost every dessert at Stoli comes with vanilla ice cream. The crêpes are actually blintzes filled with apple-raspberry compote. And the Stoli apple pie — which comes with a similar compote, an excellent pastry, and some loosely topped walnuts — was a little deconstructed. Though the crème brûlée hadn’t gelled, the burnt-sugar topping was fine. You had to work it into spoonfuls of what tasted like melted ice cream.
Service at Stoli was quite good and charming. There was a pause — probably for the kitchen to assemble things — between appetizers and entrées. The atmosphere, on a quiet weeknight, was hard to estimate.
The room has been redone rather formally with yellow walls, lacquer-topped tables, a white tin ceiling, red banquettes, pink lights, and table-top silk orchids. The food can also be elaborate, so this might be the quiet, not-too-expensive, romantic place I’m often asked for —especially if they make the lighting dimmer.
Stoli Bar & Restaurant, 213 Washington Street, Brookline | Sun–Thurs, noon–10 pm; and Fri-Sat, noon–midnight | MC, VI, DC | full bar | no valet parking | up three steps from sidewalk level | 617.731.5070
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Robert Nadeau: RobtNadeau@aol.com