PRAVDA 36 Wellington East, at Leader Lane, 416-306-2433. Complete meals for $45 per person, including all taxes, tip and a shot of Stoly. Open Tuesday 5 to 10 pm, Wednesday and Thursday 5 pm to midnight, Friday 5 pm to 2 am, Saturday 8 pm to 2 am. Closed Sunday and Monday. Licensed. Access: one step at door, three steps to washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNNN
Launched last summer, Pravda not only appropriates the name of the defunct Soviet Union newspaper (Pravda means "truth" in Russian, paradoxically enough), but also lifts its name and concept from über-restaurateur Keith McNally's similarly named bar on New York City's Lafayette Street. Like the Big Apple saloon, it's painted winter white-out white and decked out with revolutionary-chic tchotchkes. Portraits of Lenin, Gorbachev and Chairman Mao hang over the marble-topped bar, and the folksy, cheerful space is littered with enough nesting matryoshka dolls, red stars and Soviet-era flags to sink a decommissioned Cold War battleship.
As one would expect, the booze lineup focuses on vodka: 36 different labels from Russia, the Ukraine, the U.S., the UK, New Zealand, France, Finland, Japan, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Scotland and Poland, where our favourite 50-year-old Siwucha potato vodka hails from. All are available by the shot as well as in tasting trios and cocktails like the Oh Canada (vodka, rye and maple syrup, $9.50). Or swig it straight from the bottle ($100 regular brands/$150 premium/$170 deluxe) accompanied by complimentary slices of dark bread and pickles.
Caviar spread on house-made buckwheat blini dolloped with sour cream and garnished with a hard-boiled quail egg is also available in several varieties ranging from inexpensive sushi-style tobiko roe ($6/10 grams) to pricier Osetra ($120/30 grams), Beluga ($140/30 grams) and Canadian sturgeon ($230/125 grams). There's also a short menu of Russian-style tapas - zakouski, if you didn't know - such as Russki Pelmeni ravioli stuffed with mushroom duxelles sautéed in dilled butter ($9), latkes topped with salmon roe ($11) and Fettucini Natasha, with smoked salmon ($14).