Cool Stuff in Paris. By Manning Leonard Krull.

Chez Svetlana

52, Rue d'Orsel, 75018 Paris (Map)
Phone: 01 42 23 52 25
Métro: Abbesses, Anvers | Website

Chez Svetlana is a riot. The dining room is small and cozy, with a crazy over-decorated Russian style that I adore, with busy old-fashioned wallpaper and tons of paintings and mirrors and little strings of lights everywhere. It's intimate and dreamy and romantic.

The owner/host is a great guy; friendly but slightly reserved, and he'll waste no time offering you some vodka. The two times I've been there he's had an interesting list of different flavored vodkas to choose from, and I remember a shot of pepper-flavored vodka, another that tasted like flowers, another that was almond or something, and, you'll have to excuse me, after a few of these plus a bottle of wine, I don't remember much of anything after a certain point, other than a vague notion of a supremely pleasant evening.

My first time at Chez Svetlana my gang consisted of two Americans, a French guy, and a Bosnian lady, and there weren't many other tables so the owner spent a lot of time talking to us and we all muddled through some English and French and Russian to communicate. I'm pretty sure we learned that the guy was a champion wrestler back in mother Russia, but that might just be the vodka talking. The only other person working in the whole restaurant was the cook, aka the owner's wife, and she'd occasionally yell to him from the kitchen to stop chatting with us and come do some actual work.

The menu at Chez Svetlana is a pretty traditional list of hearty Russian dishes, and everything I had was delicious. I can't recommend this place enough.