Assorti Delivery: Russian & Central Asian Cuisine
Address: 14 Riding House Street, London. W1W 7EN, UK.
Closest Underground Station: Oxford Circus or Goodge Street Station
Opening Hours: (Tues-Fri) 4 - 22:30pm, (Sat-Sun) 12 - 22:30
Tired of Asian food in Chinatown? For me, I have a knack for wanting to try different types of food and get to know people from all over the world. At the same time, being a student, I am always on the hunt for something reasonable to eat in London. Last week, I found a place that met my criteria. With a Kazakh and a Kyrgyzstani joining us, they led me to Assorti Delivery, for some mid-range “Russian and Central Asian cuisine”.
Set aside from the chaotic jumble of tourists and shoppers, this café is located on a quiet street off Oxford Circus. A pleasant-looking waitress welcomed us, her second customers on this sleepy Saturday afternoon. Unlike its grey exterior, the interior is simple and bright. For those who are particular, the Food Standards Agency UK has given Assorti a ‘Generally Satisfactory’ (3) rating on its hygiene.
We had tables closest to the little counter by the door. I was also sitting close to the big television screen where a continuous playlist of cheezy Russian pop played throughout our meal. On the walls were framed photos of the Astana (Kazakhstan’s capital), the statue of ‘Worker and Kolkhoz Woman’ in Moscow and the canals of St Petersburg. These photos served as small reminders of the dishes’ origins. Assorti boasts of its “mamma-used-to-cook food” and its “flag-waving national dishes” throughout the former Soviet Union. I didn’t think the interior conveyed homeliness successfully but I believed their priorities were on takeaway and delivery services.
The menu was not difficult to read as it was in English and each dish was described well. There were several starters and mains but only two desserts. In the end, I went for two starters. When it came to ordering food, the waitress knew very little English so my Kyrgyzstani friend had to order in Russian.
While waiting, we were given a plate of Russian bread, cut thickly and served. It was dark and sour-tasting, almost reminding me of rye bread but the Russian bread was slightly sweeter. Its crust was slightly tough but the rest of the bread was fairly dry and easy to eat. Complimentary pots of sour cream were given to us to spread over the bread like butter. The sour cream combated the dryness and added some flavour to the bread.
We didn’t have to wait long for the Starters. I had my Seledka Pod Shuboi (£5.95) - a traditional salad layered with herring, boiled potatoes, carrots, beetroot dressed with mayonnaise and topped with shredded egg. One bite and the tangy, fishy taste dominated the neutral taste of egg and beetroot. If you enjoy salmon roe or caviar, this salad is for you. The mayonnaise dressing on the beetroot also added a creamy texture to the salad. The deep red colour of the beetroot was striking against the shredded egg. As intended, this salad was made to look like a cake with its play with layers, shape and bright colours. Overall, the salad was cool and smooth in the mouth. For a smaller stomach like mine, one starter would have sufficed.
|Seledka Pod Shuboi (£5.95)|
|Seledka Pod Shuboi (£5.95) and its play with layers|
The other starter I ordered was the Borsch (£5.95), a traditional Ukrainian soup with cabbage, beetroot, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, sweet peppers and onions slowly cooked in a beef broth. It came in a large soup bowl. The reddish-purple soup was fragrant and light in the mouth. Of course, sour cream was served alongside it. Adding in the sour cream made the soup creamier and more flavourful. I was struck by the Russians’ love of mayonnaise and sour cream. Seemed like a lot of their dishes used bland dairy like an addictive spice. The salad and soup were definitely enough for me. I even ended up sharing the Borsch with my housemate.
The Mains came in with the Starters as requested. As expected, the mains were considerably bigger. If you are a guy, the mains should be enough. My boyfriend ordered a plate of Manty (£10.95), a traditional Central Asian dish. The plate had five huge dumplings like oversized chinese wantons! Each dumpling was stuffed with shredded beef and onions, apparently handmade and steamed. The dumplings did resemble wantons but they were made thicker and harder. I tried half a dumpling and its skin tasted more like chewy lasagne sheets but the beef and onions complimented the flat-tasting skin. However, the flavour could be enhanced yet again by adding sour cream or paprika-based adzhika sauce.
|The inside of a Manty is filled with beef and onions|
Another main dish ordered was the Kotleti (£9.95). This dish comprised of baked beef, ground and shaped into frikadeller. This was complimented by buckwheat and mushroom sauce over the beef. Given the plainness of the buckwheat, the beef acted to brighten the dish as a whole. I frequently noticed this little push-and-pull between savoury and plain tastes in Russian food. Sour cream seemed like the crown of toppings, even used like ‘whipped cream’ on a sweet mini dumpling dessert filled with cherry compote (served at Mari Vanna)! When we were looking at the two desserts served at Assorti, the descriptions of the Honey Cake (£4.95) and Napoleon Cake (£4.95) came over too deadly sweet for our tastes.
|Kotleti with its beef and buckwheat|
Overall, the prices were very reasonable compared to the expensive Russian restaurant Mari Vanna at Knightsbridge. If you would like to try something unusual, inexpensive and tasty, Assorti would be able to beat the hunger pangs. For someone who isn’t keen on sour cream and mayonnaise, Russian and Central Asian food just might not be for you. Luckily at Assorti, they may separate out the sour cream or mayonnaise depending on the dish. Other than that, I would definitely go again if I ever get bored of Chinatown food. I highly recommend the Seledka Pod Shuboi, for those who love the strong taste of fish.
Until next time!