Rich: I thought we were going to use the actual spa and I wondered what it would be like to be topless around you, Caity. Would it change things? Would it bring us closer or push us away from each other? I guess we'll have to figure that out on another day, when we go to water slides.
Caity: You and I probably look about the same with our shirts off, so I think it would be like looking in a mirror. (Terrifying.)
The best restaurant in New York is
À la carte.
Cost before tip
Rich: We entered the spa to a woman at the desk ranting on the phone about how Wall Street Bath & Spa's payments are not being processed. She was petite with an attitude several times her size. I got the point: don't fuck with her, she's Russian.
Caity: Our interaction with her was interesting. Without directly acknowledging us or breaking her stream of complaints into the phone, she removed a long narrow metal box from a wall of long narrow metal boxes and placed it in front of us. After about 20 seconds, when we made no move to fill it, she finally looked up and asked if we were coming in. We told her, yes, for the restaurant, and she put it away. What were we meant to put in the metal box?
Rich: Our souls. She shrugged as we headed to the restaurant, figuring that she'd just have to get them some other time.
She was, plausibly, just a very modern witch. The kind you meet in a club, who roofies your drink because it's easier than casting a spell. Actually, Restaurant Matryoshka reminded me of a facsimile of a fairytale. Like a school play production of a Russo-Finnish fairy tale.
Caity: I didn't like that Matryoshka was almost entirely windowless, except for a few fake wooden windows which "looked out" onto jolly sauna scenes, also carved into wood. It truly was like eating inside a Matryoshka doll. That restaurant had more wood than a forest.
Rich: There were lots of pictures of duos. Starting with the bear and the fox mosaic at the entrance. I said, "that's us!" at that one, and then thought it in my head at every picture of a duo that I saw after that.
That's us with a friend!
Caity: Rich :/ That mosaic you are talking about was a bear and a bull because the spa is located on Wall Street.
Rich: Oh right I just thought it was cute animal time. What kinda animal do you like to be at a spa? I'm a fox!
Caity: The economy was driven to the brink of climax today, thanks to a foxy market.
Rich: Speaking of climaxes, I am not entirely convinced that spas like this aren't just an elaborate setup for public masturbation. Every time I've ever been in a public sauna, basically, someone has masturbated at me. It's all I know. I don't mind so much, different people have different ways of saying hello.
Caity: Did that happen to you at lunch? We did pass a nearly nude man in a sauna on our way into the restaurant. Also: Two empty tanning booths, pay at front.
Rich: Yes! I saw another nude man while we were eating. He was very stocky, but young and supple. Nice side dish.
Caity: My favorite thing to study while we were eating, no offense to your face, was the television behind us, which was playing—at a considerable volume—a channel called AWE: A Wealth of Entertainment. Prior to our 90 minutes living in Russia, I knew nothing about this wealth-themed TV channel. Now I only regret that so much of my brain is occupied by facts and opinions and ideas that are not about AWE: A Wealth of Entertainment.
When we entered the restaurant, the TV was playing a program about the ancient city of Persepolis. ("World Heritage Persepolis.") Then it switched to a show about cars ("Wheels Full Throttle: Sixty Years of Corvette.") Just before we left, it switched to a show about wealth on the water ("Wealth on the Water.")
Rich: I thought the network was Russian, no offense to Russians. It was flashy and cheap at once.
Caity: In fact, the channel is based in San Diego. And despite dedicating itself to getting the word out about the concept of wealth, it was easily the cheapest-looking programming I had ever seen. CNN has higher production values.
Rich: It wasn't even about luxury, but literally about having a lot of money. Wealth porn, down to the resolution, which was very late-90's porno—so bright it was surreal and nauseating.
Our waiter was alone and serving about 10 tables. He was the kind of guy you refer to as "the poor guy." The poor guy was so slammed!
Caity: He was slammed but he performed his duties with indefatigable grace.
Rich: The poor guy barely had time to take our order, but he was kind. When he was cleaning up my mess after the meal he said, "Sorry, sir." Sorry you're such a pig that you eat off your plate as though it's a trough. I will try harder next time.
I got the Lunch Special #1, for which I chose a salad (tomato salad), a soup (mushroom barley), and a main course (cheese blintzes).
The tomato salad was good, as far as giant bowls of chopped tomatoes go. There were a few long carrot shavings that looked like tapeworms. I've always wanted a tapeworm, thank you, Matryoshka!
Caity: I considered getting a lunch special just so I could have chicken and French fries, but that felt childish. So instead I got blintzes with salmon roe...and French fries.
Rich: You say childish, I say fairy-tale wonderment. It would have felt appropriate. I wouldn't have held it against you. The caviar seemed fucked up, no offense. A giant gravy boat of caviar.
Caity: As a public representative for AWE: A Wealth of Entertainment, allow me to state for the record that salmon roe isn't proper caviar. I thought it looked fine, which is also how it tasted.
Rich: Bursting in your mouth.
Caity: We also each ordered Diet Cokes, which our waiter poured out of a can table-side. He took the cans though. Is that a classy move? Not like it's wine. Was he trying to prove that they had not been tampered with? Hadn't even crossed my mind but, in retrospect, you should never eat or drink anything anyone gives you.
Rich: I didn't like that there was no ice involved in the sodas. Where were we? Europe?
Caity: That's probably the thing I hate most—IN THE WORLD. If I wanted a soda with no ice, I'd take one off the vine.
Rich: If I wanted soda with no ice, I would shoot myself because what kind of monster would I be? Your fries arrived gleaming with the grease they were just cooked in, which I thought was unpretentious.
Caity: They were so hot. It was like: Chill out, guys. They were served alongside a heavy silver gravy boat of ketchup, which made me feel like a princess.
Rich: And you ate the whole gravy boat of ketchup, like the dainty princess you are.
My mushroom barley soup had giant, throat clogging pieces of portobello in it. I ate all of it without incident.
My blintzes were extremely special, although after I gushed about them, one bite tasted A LOT like Coca Cola and I wondered if that was the source of their sweetness.
Caity: Oh my gosh. Like they put soda in them?
Rich: At first, I thought they were sitting in a small amount of syrup, but then, I tasted Coke. You know what? I accept whatever it takes to make something delicious.
Caity: They tasted GREAT. I think soda should be the secret ingredient in more or maybe all things! This broccoli's great. What's the sauce? That's just some soda I poured on top! Delicious.
Rich: Anyway, these blintzes were sweet and savory at once, the place where bagel cream cheese meets cheesecake cream cheese. A++, thank you Mr. Coca Cola.
Did you like the eggs bursting in your mouth, Clarice?
Caity: I did! They were salty! Probably all full of soda. God knows there was already a lot of soda in my mouth to begin with (I had 2 cans’ worth.) Overall, I would say my meal was good. I loved the fries. But it also made me feel like if I lived in Russia, I would tire of the food very quickly. Man cannot live on salmon eggs and soda alone.
Rich: If you lived in Russia, you would have gotten one of those eggs and a picture of a gravy boat on your placemat, if you even got a placemat.
There were lots of people in this place that were speaking Russian or other Russo sounding languages. Also a woman behind me was talking about a "Fashion Week party" when you went to the bathroom, so she seemed very busy and important. Just spaing at Wall Street to take a break from the hectic demands of Fashion Week.
Caity: There was a woman seated to your right who had beautiful skin. When she sat down, I leaned across the table and mouthed to you “THAT... WOMAN... HAS... BEAUTIFUL... SKIN.”
Rich: I believed you, but I didn't really see it. I will say that the restaurant's lighting, not unlike that of AWE, was fluorescent in a way seemingly designed to make people look porno, and so if she achieved THAT in THERE, bravo lady.
Caity: A final note on the decor: As one might expect from the name, Matryoshkas sprouted up like weeds from every available shelf.
Rich: They were arranged expertly, in gorgeous patterns. Big to little; little to big to little; little to big.
Caity: There were also a few stray Christmas ornaments hanging from metal fixtures. A blintz full of soda. A warm wooden box stuffed with naked old men. A bleak Christmas wonderland.
Is Everything Okay?
Questions about the Dining Experience
Would you go back?
Rich: Yeah. This place was great and those Coke blintzes were as compulsively edible as I imagine coke blintzes would be.
Caity: I would go back, but not for no reason.
Is it a good first date spot?
Rich: It would be a good date if you are some sort maligned person who just met the royal figurehead who will save you from your life of squalor and under-appreciation from your step-relatives and/or if you are a young person who followed a trail of breadcrumbs to the restaurant.
Caity: I think going to a slightly creepy spa located in a Soviet time capsule is a really funny first date idea. The atmosphere was not romantic, but the temperature of the fries cannot be overstated.
Is it a good place to have an affair?
Rich: Yes, especially if your "thing" with your "lover" is eating out of gravy boats after you have just mutually masturbated in a spa.
Caity: Yes. It seems like a place where everyone would be great at keeping secrets. The interior is very labyrinthine. The food service extends to the pool area.
Is it a good place to bring a doll?
Rich: No. The nesting dolls are way more impressive than whatever rags you're carrying around, I'm afraid. They would make her feel inadequate or AT LEAST provoke her to ask you several questions about what's inside of her and why can't she have dolls inside of her and where do dolls smaller than her come from and that would be so annoying and awkward.
Caity: Yes! This is probably the second-best restaurant to bring a doll to! She would probably love the chance to hang out with her friends. And a doll's favorite food is soda, which this restaurant has in spades.
There are a bunch of restaurants in the world, including some in New York City. But in a city of over 24,000 restaurants, how do you find the best? You begin your search in places that are already popular: New York's hottest tourist destinations. In The Best Restaurant in New York Is, writers Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak attempt to determine the best restaurant in New York.
Previously: The Best Restaurant in New York Is: El Museo del Barrio; The Williamsburg Urban Outfitters ; The Central Park Boathouse; The Tommy Bahama Store; The Bronx Zoo; The Armani Store;The Crown Cafe at the Statue of Liberty; The Campbell Apartment inside Grand Central; The U.N. Delegates Dining Room; Play at the Museum of Sex; Le Train Bleu inside Bloomingdales; LOX at The Jewish Museum; The American Girl Café
[Images by Rich Juzwiak and Wall Street Bath & Spa]