Now that the communal dining cultures of Western Europe, Asia, and Scandinavia have all been conquered, Portland is surveying a new frontier: Russia. Kachka’s love letter to the country’s traditional cuisine, as reimagined by chef Bonnie Morales (herself the Chicago-born daughter of Russian immigrants) and her husband, Israel, centers on vodka and all the requisite cured fish, stuffed dumplings, and cabbage-wrapped meat that come with the territory. We offer four reasons why the boisterous spot might just kick-start a homegrown Russian revolution.
1 Vodka Flights: In an effort to endear Portland’s whiskey-loving denizens to Russia’s ubiquitous liquor, Israel Morales compiled a set of vodka flights, pulling from a long list of nearly 50 bottles spanning Eastern Europe, and highlighting a few of Portland’s own small-batch distilleries, like House Spirits and Bull Run. “Russia doesn’t have a cocktail tradition,” he says, “but vodka is woven into its history.”
2 Dumplings: From the thick-skinned, half dollar–size vareniki dumplings—bulging with fresh, tangy farmers cheese—and Siberian beef and pork pelmini to yeasty piroshky buns baked with cabbage, cheese, and pickled raisins, Kachka is a stuffed-dough paradise.
3 Caviar Service: “In the early ’90s, there was a big influx of black-market caviar through Canada,” explains Bonnie Morales. “Growing up, my family always had Wonder Bread slathered in butter and covered in caviar. At my brother’s wedding, we had one-pound bowls on every table.” At Kachka, they cure their own fresh salmon and steelhead roe from Oregon, source sturgeon caviar from California, and even import the good stuff like Siberian Baerii Osetra—“just for comparison.” Try them on brioche and crêpes covered in chive butter, or splurge for a taste of all four.
4 Soviet Novelty Sweets: The headlining dessert, plombir, is a Muscovite’s Klondike Bar set between two cracker-thin wafers. Morales makes the gussied-up ice cream sandwich with whipped custard semifreddo and serves it with milk caramel sauce laced with black currant and tea. Bonus: cookies and candies traditionally built for tea parties, lofty, gelatinous “bird’s milk” cake, and sirniki, tender cheese pancakes covered in fruit compote.