Menu Freak: Lox, Caviar, Chicken Liver, and Prunes at Kanape

The "press preview" for Kanape was on the 10th. From the 11th straight through to Valentine's Day night, owner Sabine Ruthensteiner (owner of club Contour downtown) ran a Grand Opening Weekend menu called "A Taste of Riga," which (for one) is an awesome inspiration, and (for two) featured piroshkies and borscht, Latvian cotlettes, sweet crepes, and ice cream topped with Balzam--a Latvian herbal liqueur mixed with pure vodka that can be used as fuel if your snowmobile konks out on you in the middle of a blizzard.

After all that fun, Kanape opened for reals at 700 Broadway E. with a menu that I love for both its originality and its obvious love for generally unloved things. Ruthensteiner opened Kanape just because she was feeling homesick for her native Latvia, and honestly, nothing makes for a better restaurant than that.

Really, where else are you going to find . . .

. . .Egg-salad canapes with lox and dill and lemon and a sprinkling of red caviar, or Swedish herring set with a sour little gherkin? Where else would you go for chicken-liver pate with red onion and pickles, or vegetable caponata with red pepper and parsley? Where else but a Latvian restaurant would veal bologna, pickles, potatoes, peas, egg, and mayonnaise count as a salad? And I dare you to find another Armenian salad like Kanape's Ararat: beets, garlic, walnuts, and prunes, all bound together with mayonnaise.

I am so hungry right now. And no, I'm not kidding at all.

Kanape balances the board with a long list of crepes, both sweet and savory, Turkish coffee from the bar, and two of the best cold-killers I've seen on a cocktail list in a while. First, there's the Kanape tea: black tea hit with a shot of St. Germain and a shot of orange liqueur (I do the same thing when I have a cold, only I use whiskey). Second, the drink called From Riga With Love, which is more Balzam, then some rum, then some Bailey's Irish Cream, finished with a shot of espresso and some steamed milk. Awesome.

Because I love a place that's different. Because Eastern European food is still a relative rarity in the West. And because I trust a place that takes as its inspiration the homesickness and melancholy of someone far from their native soil, I'm looking forward to getting to Kanape as soon as the staff and crew get settled into their new digs. And if any of you out there have already checked the joint out, I'd love to hear what you thought.

Comments below. You know the drill.

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