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25.04.2018

In 2001, when Vladimir Putin was finishing up the first year of his first presidential term, a Russian named Aleksandr Melnikov arrived in Delhi to sell leather garments. Instead, he ended up opening a tiny Russian eatery in Anand Niketan. Beloved by a small, loyal clientele for almost a decade, Bline was a cozy affair—four tables, a TV playing Russian videos, and a menu limited to whatever Melnikov felt like making that day.

Bline vanished some years ago, and though we’ve heard rumours that its chef was snapped up by the Russian Cultural Centre, we’ve never been able to substantiate them. Since then, Delhi has been pretty devoid of Russian food—does anyone even remember Boyarin at the Ashok?—but that’s changed in recent weeks with Blinnaya, a delivery-only outfit run by a young Indian-Russian couple.

All Dolled Up

With super-cute packaging (matryoshka doll stickers figure prominently) and a pretty extensive menu, Blinnaya is a long way from Bline, but the food is similarly straightforward. There are several kinds of blini, Russian-style crepes, with both traditional fillings and creative ones. Each would make a substantial lunch. We try the savoury “Grandma’s Secret” with mushroom and diced pork. There’s a “Being Doner” blini, but we choose salmon over Salman and plumb for the stand-out “Red Star” (salmon, salmon roe, Philadelphia cream cheese and dill) instead. Blinnaya also makes sweet blini—we recommend the one filled with tvorog, or cottage cheese.

Salads, dumplings and various kinds of cutlets make up the rest of the menu. The crabstick salad and ‘oliviye’ salad are variations on the theme of crunchy and soft diced ingredients unified by mayonnaise. The Indian palate might find them bland, but they’re good summer picnic foods.

Just Gogol It

Draniki (zucchini and potato patties) and sausage pirozhok (little fried buns) would make for great drinking snacks. So would chicken pelmeni dumplings, a Russian version of a momo, which need some zapping in the microwave so they’re hot. Blinnaya’s “sour cream” accompaniment seems to be dahi, which we should frankly all be okay with, given the givens. As for the borscht, it’s a little thinner than we’d like, but probably everyone’s grandma has her own recipe.

It might not have that whole back-in-the-USSR vibe that we loved at Bline, but we’re happy Blinnaya’s in town, and in time for light summer meals that don’t tax the gut or the wallet. As an accompaniment to Masha Gessen’s brilliant new book on post-Soviet Russia, you could do worse.

Getting There: Delivery only; order online at https://blinnaya.in. Meal for two costs approximately Rs. 800.

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Food & Drink