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New Russia House offers Russian Food on Russian River

When Tatiana Ginzburg visited Jenner last year, she found herself wondering why there wasn’t a Russian restaurant on the Russian River.

So she and her business partner, Polina Krasikova, set out to fix the situation. The two have opened Russia House #1 in the former Sizzling Tandoor space on Hwy. 1 at the Hwy. 116 bridge, specializing in authentic Russian food from their Russian homeland.

Yet as unique as the cuisine is for the area, there’s something even more one-of-a-kind. While you can tuck into tasty borscht and salat Olivier, you can’t get a bill. Russia House #1 does not have prices for their food. You make any contribution you want. And if you can’t give either, they’ll take trade for some help in the restaurant, working the tables or the kitchen.

Crazy? Maybe, admits Ginzburg, who admits finances aren’t her raison d’etre. That’s more of Krasikova’s specialty, since in Krasikova’s former career she ran a large trucking company. But more than that, for both of them, it’s a community experiment and an embracing of fellow human beings.

Ginzburg and Krasikova were at Burning Man, cominig to Northern California to see a friend specializing in transcendal mediation. The two split their time between their homes in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and the California coastal Sonoma County town. Obviously, they’re following their own beat.

And the locals seem to like it. It gets crowded at lunchtime, with guests perusing the buffet, hunkering down at coffee shop-style tables in the big dining room or on the patio overlooking the water. Strangers become quick friends, eating communally and sharing philosophy. Visitors bring in food, like fresh baked spice cookies, and volunteers help cook and clean up.

It’s tasty food, too. A recent spread included several cold and warm salads, piroshky, shrimp stuffed peppers, roast squash, Russian slaw, roast beef, cured meats with fruit, fish, rye bread, sautéed mushrooms, and kvass, a Slavic fermented beverage made from rye bread. Sometimes, the buffet is down, in which case the kitchen will prepare individual plates, or sometimes just tea and pastries.

Folks can call ahead for menu previews, or to see if the place is even open (it always is, Ginzburg says, unless it’s not). But the phone service isn’t reliable.

So really, it’s best to just take a chance, head on out, and see which the world takes you.

9960 Highway 1, Jenner, 707-865-9456, http://russian-house1.com/

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