From Russia with love

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Are you craving a big night out, but feeling the pinch of inflation? Do you want to get away from it all, but can’t bear to get on a plane and witness how little the greenback buys?

Well, as close as Gravesend, there is a Russian nightclub where your dollar seems to have all of the purchasing power of the ruble, circa 1989. And it offers an entertaining experience like nowhere else in Brooklyn.

On Friday and Saturday nights, Rasputin — named for a “Russian monk known for his decadence,” explained owner Michael Levitis — offers a “Folies Bergere”-esque revue, followed by pop music performed by a live band, a DJ, along with European-Asian fusion cuisine by chef Lovely Sandou.

But when you set out for Rasputin, it’s best to put on your “tourist” hat and not to expect perfection — after all, you’re on a staycation.

On one hand, you can’t help but be impressed by the size of the stage, the elegant silver banquettes and the footman who opens the door for you. The formal china and pressed glass goblets at each place setting make one feel like they’ve been invited to dinner with the tsar, but the dismay is palpable when your martini arrives in a plastic cup.

The dismay becomes aggravation when your lightweight cup of Georgian wine is overturned, and the waiter does not clean your table or remember to bring you another.

While the appetizers — such as tuna tartare and sliced filet mignon — do impress, our painfully inexperienced waiter couldn’t tell us about the dishes. When we asked what kind of sauce accompanied the steak, he answered, “It’s a sauce. A secret sauce.”

This wasn’t service with a smile. This was service KGB-style.

But that waiter soon became part of the show, performing an all-too-real vanishing act. Before the revue commences, we recommend ordering a bottle of wine for the table, so you don’t feel like you’ve been abandoned in Siberia. (Owner Levitis told us that tables of 10 or more get a free bottle of vodka.)

The Rasputin study in contradictions continues with the live show. Before the beautiful dancing girls take the stage in their exquisite, costumes handmade in St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater, a master of ceremonies in denim and a mullet — rivaling that of ’80s super hair-band Def Leppard — greets the elegantly, semi-formally attired patrons in Russian and English.

In a charmingly small-town way, he pays very special attention to everyone in attendance who is celebrating a Sweet 16, birthday or anniversary. On our visit, he had a couple of them come out to the dance floor to blow out their candles.

While Rasputin’s “World of Cabaret” show has been compared to the Tropicana’s “Folies Bergere,” it’s more akin to Atlantic City in scale than to Las Vegas. But that said, it is enormously entertaining and every bit a professional production that would make Vladimir Putin proud.

There are seven dance numbers ranging from tributes to Paris’s sexy Crazy Horse burlesque and the Moulin Rouge’s can-can to Saint Petersburg’s Troyka restaurant, in which the dancers — in their tall, sparkling crowns — remove their fur-trimmed robes to display barely-there costumes and precision footwork.

Truly, this was a stunning production with fun choreography, wonderful lighting and top-notch sound.

After the cabaret show wraps, talented singers join a live band to perform a variety of songs in a variety of languages all set to a contagious beat that lures the patrons from their seats and onto the floor. (Aside from us, that is. We were still waiting for our cocktails. We recommend paying the check as soon as you’re able, leaving your table and shaking your tail feathers until 3 am, when the club closes. You can always head to the bar to quench your thirst.)

Although we have clearly given this recent Friday evening at Rasputin a mixed review, we’re not ready to say “dosvedanya.” Now that we’ve gotten a taste of the popular dinner-theater-cum-nightclub, we will definitely give it another try. And next time, we’ll be sure to put in our entire order before the skirts come over the tops of the heads of the can-can girls.

Rasputin [2670 Coney Island Ave. at Avenue X in Gravesend, (718) 332-8111] offers a live cabaret show followed by pop music and a DJ, from 8 pm to 3 am, for a minimum of $75 per person (which includes a banquet meal and drinks) and on Saturdays, for a minimum of $105 per person. For information, visit

Posted 6:38 pm, September 4, 2008
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Reasonable discourse

coma from Midwood says:
The writer should have done some research prior to making an ill-advised reservation. Not only is Rasputin far below the standard set by other Russian restaurants in the area in terms of food, but the show itself is considered by many a garish, tiresome affair.

Rasputin, to those unfamiliar, is a family-style dining establishment where banquet reservations are the standard. You cannot expect to be heard when placing your order during a dance number.

Perhaps the writer should have troubled herself to do some more reading/research on the topic Russian etiquette and restaurant culture.
Sept. 5, 2008, 4:48 pm

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